Leadership, Gender and Culture in Education: Male and Female Perspectives

By John Collard; Cecilia Reynolds | Go to book overview

Foreword

This rich explorative book examines the intricacies of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and class and how these complex influences weave their patterns in the daily lives of leaders. What shapes the perceptions and beliefs of leaders in particular education settings? What drives them to behave in different ways? What perceptions do their 'followers' have? What makes them the leaders they are, or want to be?

In answering these questions a commentator like Edward Said would have argued against oversimplifications, pointing to the interrelationship between politics and culture and suggesting that people have been encouraged to believe that they are only, mainly, exclusively white or black, western or oriental, male or female. Cultures and traditions exist, he argued in Culture and Imperialism (1993 pp 407–408) but 'there is no reason except fear and prejudice to keep insisting on their separation and distinctiveness'. 'No one today is purely one thing and labels like Indian, woman or American are no more than starting points, which if followed into actual experience for only a moment are quickly left behind'.

And this is where John Collard's and Cecilia Reynolds' edited collection comes into its own. The contributors achieve the difficult balance between acknowledging the differences: the distinctiveness not only of culture and beliefs but also of gender and sexuality, as well as the unifying elements. They confront some of the stereotypes about women and leadership and challenge prevailing 'gung-ho' models which focus on heroic individuals who achieve narrowly defined goals.

The power of stereotypes is pervasive and limiting. It is as hard for the male leader to resist the pressure of becoming the 'Chief Executive' as it is for his female counterpart to avoid being the 'Prom Queen'. But confronting the stereotypes is one of the most difficult leadership challenges. Selma James (The Ladies and the Mammies: Jane Austen and Jean Rhys: 1983 pp.94–95) has taught us much about how to challenge those stereotypes, such as the 'Mammy, the mythologized Black woman...portrayed as a large woman with a round face and a scarf tied around her head...someone whom a white child was able to turn to for everything.' An image which 'suggests that in the midst of the mess of the white family, the plantation master's family, there was a Black woman who was a pillar of stability, who kept everything together, and who was always good-tempered'.

-xiii-

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