The Relationship of Gender and Context to Leadership in Australian Schools

  • John L. Collard
Part of the Studies in Educational Leadership book series (SIEL, volume 1)


This chapter focuses upon the interactions between core components of the organizational culture of Australian schools (level and size of schools, sectorial identity, and student gender) and the beliefs of a balanced sample of male and female principals. The findings qualify previous discourse about leadership and gender by suggesting that organizational variables generate significant variations both within and between genders. Some factors draw men and women towards shared belief platforms; others lead to highly significant differences within each gender. The findings thereby question essentialist typecasts which portray men as naturally bureaucratic and instrumental and women as collaborative and nurturing. The concept of “multiple masculinities and femininities” (Connell, 1995), is advanced as a more useful theoretical construct.

Australia replicates the pattern of advanced western democracies where schools are highly feminized workplaces but disproportionate percentages of principalships are held by men. This mirrors broader patterns in the workforce where men hold 70% to 80% of administrative, executive and managerial roles. The 1996 census indicated that although 69% of teachers in Australia were women, only a third of school principals in Australia were female (ABS Census, 1998; Connell, 1987). In the state of Victoria, where this study was conducted, 67% were males and 37% were females. Observations that Canadian and English schools are institutions where “men manage and women teach” (Ozga, 1993; Reynolds, 1995) would appear to be equally applicable to Australia.


Leadership Style School Leadership American Educational Research Association School Size Government School 
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  • John L. Collard

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