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

By John Collard; Cecilia Reynolds | Go to book overview

Introduction

John Collard and Cecilia Reynolds

This edited collection contains chapters by some of the world's leading scholars on gender and educational leadership. The chapters draw on research on men and women leaders in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, the UK and the USA. The authors counter essentialist claims based on biological, psychological and sociological theories stressing differences across gender groups. Differences within gender groups are presented in a variety of ways and more sophisticated understandings of gender relations and leadership discourses are developed than has characterized this field in the past.

The book challenges, or 'troubles' (Blackmore 1999) rationalist traditions such as the separation of mind and body and the superiority of objectivity. Rooted in post-positivism, many of the chapters employ techniques such as discourse analysis, to move beyond mere descriptions of women leaders' experiences and consider such things as intrasubjectivity, heteronormativity, and the social construction of multiple forms of masculinity and femininity. The early work on gender and leadership is supplemented with more nuanced theories and explanations of how gender, race and class, for example, operate in connected and changing ways for both men and women leaders in different educational settings. Drawing upon recent sophisticated developments in the field of gender studies (Connell 1995), the authors argue that social and institutional contexts both shape and differentiate the leadership of male and female administrators in schools and universities.

The past decade has witnessed an increased degree of sophistication in the discourse about gender and educational leadership. This has involved a movement away from the essentialist typecasting which characterized the literature of the 1970s and 1980s where men and women were often depicted as polar opposites. There is now a greater awareness of multiple forms of masculinity and femininity that interact with economic, social, corporate and even minority cultures (Connell 1995). Culture, whether described as broad social mores, institutional histories or geographically bounded belief systems, shapes and mediates socially constructed gender identities.

An awareness of the concept of multiple femininities and masculinities is just beginning to appear in the discourse on educational leadership. In this respect, the field is beginning to catch up with the more advanced thinking in the field of women/gender studies. It is time to shed misleading stereotypes of male and female leaders that have assumed a mythic orthodoxy in popular

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