Gender and school leadership

by Marianne Coleman


In this paper delivered at UNITEC in September 2003, Marianne Coleman draws on research data from two large surveys of all the women and a one-in-three sample of the men secondary school principals in England and Wales. Based on the data, the paper explores a number of areas relevant to New Zealand principals. These include:

  • the work life balance for women and men in demanding leadership roles
  • the relevance of the experience of the principals’ role that men and women find different, rather than the kind of leadership styles they have
  • despite the continuing stereotype of the authoritarian ‘masculine’ leader, the self-perception of men and women in their roles is similar in relation to their management and leadership style.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might assist your reading of this article:

  • How do you react to this paper? Do you think that there is a gender difference in how women and men experience the role of principal?
  • What can leaders in schools do to counter the ‘gendered experience of leaders’?
  • Do your experiences match those of the principals described in this paper?
  • Focusing on the positive, consider a critical incident that signaled to your school community the kind of emphasis you wished to place on your leadership activities:
  • How did this connect with this paper?
  • Would it influence women to be leaders?
  • How did it affect your future actions?


Coleman, M. (2003, September). Gender and School Leadership: The experience of women and men secondary principals. Paper presented at UNITEC, Auckland.

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