Academic journal article Planning and Changing

Does Gender Make a Difference? Voices of Male and Female High School Principals

Academic journal article Planning and Changing

Does Gender Make a Difference? Voices of Male and Female High School Principals

Article excerpt


The aim of this study is to increase our understanding of the high school principalship by examining the similarities and differences between how males and females experience the role. This information continues the process of developing a more inclusive theory of educational administration by further exploring the "differences and deficits" models (Shakeshaft, 1989; Scott, 2003). Researchers who theorize these models have examined the under-representation of women in administrative positions through studies of "sex-role differences, leadership styles, organizational structure, lack of females in the pipeline, and sex-role stereotypes" (Scott, 2003, p. 83). This article provides insights into the high school principalship that can be useful to both males and females who might consider the position as a career choice.

To expose how the high school principalship is experienced I surveyed and interviewed both male and female high school principals about their careers, their role conflicts and commitments, their areas of job satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and their leadership styles. Data analysis was performed to examine the constructs of role conflict, role commitment, and job satisfaction as well as the personal attributes of age, ethnicity, marital status, children living at home, and age at first principalship. Professional attributes examined were career paths, experience, aspirations, mentoring, and leadership styles. The following describes how I operationalized the constructs of role conflict, role commitment, and job satisfaction in this study.

Role conflict. Role conflict occurs when the demands of work conflict with the demands of family and home. In their study of elementary and secondary school principals, Kochan, Spencer, and Mathews (2000) found that the primary issue facing both males and females was "managing their work and their time and coping with the stresses, tasks and responsibilities of the job" (p. 305). Several researchers have found that although conflicts between the demands of work and family affect both men and women, women experience greater work-family conflict than do men (Greenglass, Pantony, & Burke, 1989; Riehl & Byrd, 1997). Hochschild (1989) described these role conflicts in terms of the "second shift" that most working women face at the end of the day as they turn to their personal roles as parents and wives.

Role commitment. The construct of role commitment measures how individuals prioritize between commitments to their work and their personal lives. Burke (2002) noted that business organizations have two types of employees: (a) work-committed or (b) personal life or family committed. They do not have employees who are both work-committed and family-committed. In a study of secondary school principals, which included 48 males and 2 females, Vadella and Willower (1990) found that a majority of the principals felt that their commitment to their work as high school principals had taken a toll on their families. Copland (2001) argued that the "myth of the superprincipal" has created such unreasonably high expectations for the role of the school principal that it has become difficult for principals to maintain a balance between their commitments to both work and family.

Job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is considered an important and desirable goal for organizations because satisfied workers perform at higher levels than do those who are not satisfied (Chambers, 1999). Research focusing specifically on job satisfaction for high school principals identified several sources of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction. High school principals expressed satisfaction in the following areas: variability of tasks, amount of recognition, development of personal relations, hiring of new staff, instituting program changes, and working with students. Major sources of dissatisfaction were sacrifices in personal life, difficulties with existing policies, lack of achievement and opportunities for growth, limited autonomy, and problems with superintendents, school boards, and central office personnel (Duke, 1988; Gunn & Holdaway, 1986; Merrill & Pounder, 1999; Rogus, Poppenhagen & Mingus, 1980). …

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