Gender-related experiences of female school principals : a qualitative study of four schools in Umlazi North circuit.
The study sought to explore four female school principals’ management experiences and challenges that these females encounter in their management duties. It adopted a qualitative approach inquiry, and used semi-structured interviews and observations as its methods of data collection. The objective was to examine and unveil the challenges that these principals encountered when applying for promotion into school management; some gender-based dynamics related to executing their duties and responsibilities as female school managers; the management strategies that the female principals used to cope with their management responsibilities, as well as the support they required in order to enhance their effective management in the schools. The findings reveal that female principals have, indeed encountered challenges at schools owing to their gender as females. These range from the very long period of time it took for them to be promoted into management positions to the dynamics related to managing staff meetings, which included female principals being regarded as tokens by some teachers and not being taken seriously, thereby undermining the female principals’ authority as school managers. Mainly based on the societal expectations on females to perform domestic chores, female principals in these schools have to struggle with a heavy workload of their school work which runs concurrently with their familial responsibilities (domestic chores) at home. The negative attitudes of staff and the community, which cast doubt on females’ capacity to become managers, are shown to have far-reaching adverse consequences, which affect the female principals’ ability to effectively manage the schools. However, the female principals in this study innovatively employ various management strategies to mitigate the effects of these challenges on their ability to manage the schools. These include adopting collegial (and democratic) management strategies that enable them to raise above the tide, thus challenging the stereotypic conceptions that females do not have the capacity to become effective school managers. Based on the female principals’ views and experiences, the study suggested some strategies that could be employed to support and enhance female principals’ abilities for effective school management.