Lumby, Jacky and Azaola, Marta Cristina
South African female headteachers: gender and motherhood in relation to leading schools
At BERA Annual Conference, United Kingdom.
06 - 08 Sep 2011.
The Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management (CCEAM), supported by the Commonwealth Foundation, the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance, and the University of Southampton, have established a long-term plan to map women’s representation in CCEAM affiliate members’ countries, to record their experience and to use the data to make recommendations on how women can be further supported and empowered to lead schools. This paper reports on the pilot project to establish in two provinces of South Africa, in relation to women head teachers’ experience, the gender factors and other related factors (such as language, culture, religion or ethnicity) which impact on being appointed to a principal and on enacting the role. The paper draws on interviews with 54 female head teachers in the Gauteng and North West provinces of South Africa. Since a mothering style of leadership was self-reported by over half of the participants in our study (29 in total), this paper aims to explore the diverse ways in which motherhood was constructed and the outcomes of these constructions on women’s approach to leadership. Drawing on concepts such as gender (West & Zimmerman, 1987); (Corsun & Corsten, 2001) and mothering (Nakano, 1994), the paper focuses on how women position themselves as mothers at the workplace and how this shapes their relationship with students, parents and other members of staff. It concludes by suggesting that in the ongoing struggle to achieve greater equality for women school leaders, homogenising western interpretations of doing and undoing gender are inappropriate
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