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

By John Collard; Cecilia Reynolds | Go to book overview

3: Gender and School Leadership
in Sweden

Anna Davis and Olof Johansson

Women are the best school administrators. And, hold on to your hats, be-
cause here comes the next deathblow against the male of the species: the
best male school administrators are those who use female management
techniques most.

(Shakeshaft 1992: 4)

In 1980, an influential study entitled More Women as School Administrators appeared in Sweden (SOU 1980: 19). Its purpose was to investigate why women were under-represented among principals in Sweden and what actions could be taken to achieve a more even gender distribution. At that time about 7 per cent of principals were women, whereas 60 per cent of teachers were women. The reason for this, according to the study, was low self-esteem in women and favouritism towards male candidates during the recruitment process. In addition, the School Leader Training Programme was available to candidates only after becoming a principal, which put women at a disadvantage at that time (Ullman 1997). The authors of More Women as School Administrators clearly stated that they were not expressing any opinions on why differences in leadership style between male and female school administrators should exist. Even so, there was an underlying theme throughout the study that justified the need for more female principals on the basis that women were perceived as especially skilled at handling the more democratic role of school administrator that was emerging.

Suggested solutions included more women substituting during the absence of a principal or assistant principal and using gender as a basis for allocating principal positions. The latter measure encountered hard criticism by the school leader trade union Skolledarna through its publication The School Leader in 1980. Quotas, it was believed, would not solve the problems, rather it was suggested that the number of female principals would increase if women dared to claim the right to substitute as principal or assistant principal. There was also concern that increasing the percentage of women in the profession would lower its status. The low number of female principals was therefore not perceived as a problem by the union since it believed women did not dare or want to apply for these positions.

There has been a dramatic change in the proportion of principals that are

-38-

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