Archive for August, 2009

Does Gender Matter?

This post comes to you by way of a discussion my wife (a high school special education teacher) and I were having the other day about school administration and leadership styles.

I am about to start the 10th year of my career in education (not counting long- & short-term subbing positions). In that time, I have only worked in two high schools – one in which females comprise the majority of administrators (including the principal & superintendent), and one in which male administrators are the majority (again, including the principal & superintendent).

Off the top of my head, I initially thought that each of these gender majorities was overwhelming (I was thinking 90/10), but I decided to fact-check myself.  Sure enough, each school’s majority gender is only a majority by a small margin (60/40 or so, maybe less).

I have noticed differences in the leadership styles between the two schools, but I had chalked it up to different communities, different school cultures, different personalities, etc.  My wife was the first to point out the gender differences in the administrative teams, and I’m wondering if she’s on to something.  This piece from Inside Higher Ed (May 2007) posits that the differences between male and female leadership styles in education are becoming less pronounced (based on a study of community college administrators), but I wonder if that can be generalized to the K-12 sector.

A related issue that is probably worth thinking about here is the overall underrepresentation of women, particularly women of color, in leadership positions in American secondary education (Wrushen & Sherman, 2008).  I wonder how many of you in secondary or higher ed have worked with primarily female administrative teams – am I in a distinct minority group of educators in that regard?

Do you feel that the gender makeup of your administrative team influences leadership styles?  Do faculty & staff members tend to respond differently to administrators of different genders?  Or are we in a post-racialgender America, where leadership style is independent of gender?

Citation: Wrushen, B.R., & Sherman, W.H. (2008). Women secondary school principals: multicultural voices from the field. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 21, 457-469.  Retrieved August 15, 2009, from the Academic Search Premier database.