Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Women Leaders in High-Poverty Community Schools: Work-Related Stress and Family Impact

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Women Leaders in High-Poverty Community Schools: Work-Related Stress and Family Impact

Article excerpt

This qualitative study explores the experiences of women administrators in high-poverty community schools, investigating four women's perspectives on work demands and the impact on their families. Their work demands are related to the characteristics of impoverished communities, whereas their work resources are based on intrinsic rewards and social justice. Family demands and resources are related to the developmental stages of families, and therefore vary among the women interviewed. The research identifies the boundary-spanning demands between work and home, and the resources and strategies used by these educational leaders to manage the challenges of working in high-poverty community schools.

Key words: school leadership, urban education, principals, inner-city schools

Cette etude qualitative porte sur les experiences de directrices d'ecole dans des milieux defavorises. L'auteure analyse le point de vue de quatre femmes sur les exigences de leur travail et l'impact sur leurs familles. Les exigences de leur travail sont reliees aux caracteristiques des milieux pauvres tandis que leurs ressources professionnelles se fondent sur des recompenses intrinseques et la justice sociale. Les exigences et les ressources en matiere familiale sont liees au stade de developpement des familles et varient donc d'une repondante a l'autre. La recherche identifie les exigences quant a l'interpenetration des frontieres entre le travail et la maison ainsi que toutes les ressources et strategies utilisees par ces cadres en vue de faire face aux defis de travailler au sein d'ecoles implantees dans des milieux defavorises.

Mots cles : direction decole, ecole urbaine, directeurs d'ecole, ecoles dans des milieux defavorises


The purpose of this study was to examine the perceived work-related stress on family life as experienced by women administrators in high-poverty community schools. I used Voydanoff's (2005) conceptual model of work-family fit and balance, based on a demands and resources approach, as a framework to analyze results. In the literature review, I have examined issues related to poverty and schooling, leadership in high-poverty communities, women in educational leadership, and workrelated stress. I present results of four qualitative interviews with women administrators, as well as implications for practice and suggestions for future research.

The research questions guiding this study are:

What are the everyday realities of leadership in high-poverty community schools?

How do women administrators in such schools manage work-family fit and balance?

In what ways do their job experiences lead to work-related stress for school leaders and their familles?


Voydanoff's (2005) research explores the demands, resources, and strategies that affect a worker's ability to accomplish fit and balance between work and home. "As it became clear that work and family are interrelated domains, scholars and practitioners began to develop approaches to increase our understanding of the linkages between them" (p. 822). Voydanoff's (2005) conceptual model posits that both work and family place demands upon an individual, and they also offer resources which "are structural or psychological assets that may be used to facilitate performance, reduce demands, or generate additional resources" (p. 823). The congruence of these demands and resources results in fit, whereas incongruence results in stress.

Boundary-spanning refers to how work and family influence each other. Voydanoff (2005) suggests that both boundary-spanning demands and resources affect one's ability to achieve work-family fit. In addition, individuals implement boundary-spanning strategies that can reduce work and family demands and increase work and family resources. The degree to which an individual and her family are able to achieve work-family fit and use boundary-spanning strategies will affect work-family balance, and the level of work and family role performance and quality. …

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