Exploring women school principals' management experiences : evidence from Mafukuzela-Gandhi circuit in Pinetown district.
The study sought to explore eight women school principals’ management experiences and challenges that these women encounter in their day-to-day management duties. It used semi-structured interviews, observations and document analysis as its methods of data collection. The findings revealed that women principals encountered the challenge of being caught in the middle of having to balance domestic chores (being mothers and wives) and work responsibility (as school principals). The simultaneous demands of domestic and work responsibilities ensured that the women principals were inequitably pressured in their roles as school managers compared to their male counterparts. Other challenges related to gender stereotypes (perceptions held by some teachers and parents that women are care-givers, nurturers, and therefore not suited for management positions) and lack of women role models in school management positions. Even though women principals were challenged in their management duties they engaged in empowering management approaches by means of involving all the staff members in the decision making processes. The study highlighted the challenges that women principals encountered in maintaining their identity as women (feminine) in a male orientated field of school management. In managing the schools they used different approaches of management depending on the situation, and these included the adoption of masculine and authoritarian management strategies. By and large, these women principals insisted on using management strategies that are associated with femininities, such as empathy, cooperation, pastoral care and so forth. These strategies seemed more appropriate in promoting democratic participation in schools, as stipulated in South African education policies. The study recommended that holding induction programmes, building women networks, workshops and seminars could be a useful strategy in supporting women school principals.