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A narrative inquiry on females’ leadership experiences: learning from three secondary school principals in two districts of KwaZulu-Natal.

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The purpose of this study was to narrate the lived experiences of three female principals from secondary schools in KwaZulu-Natal. The study further explored how gender-related barriers affect and influence female principals’ leadership experiences. The study used three research puzzles: What are the lived experiences of female principals who have acquired leadership positions in secondary schools? How do female principals' experiences shape their leadership practices? What can we learn from the stories of female principals regarding their leadership experiences and practices in the midst of gender-related issues? Framed by the Complexity Leadership Theory and the Intersectionality Theory, this study utilised a narrative inquiry methodology, where field texts were generated through narrative interviews and collages. Two narrative inquiry levels of analysis were used to analyse field texts, that is, the narrative analysis and the analysis of narratives. The findings reveal that female principals' leadership experiences are influenced by their upbringing, their school context, and the amount of development they received as post-level one educators. Another finding revealed that the poor implementation of gender policies in education contributes to the hurdles that women encounter in educational leadership. Women also need mentorship to enhance their leadership experiences. Furthermore, we learn from the findings that, female principals experienced the glass ceiling effect within three levels: societal, organisational and individual. Lastly, we learn that despite the barriers they experienced, these female principals were resilient leaders who found ways to mitigate their leadership path obstacles. This study implies a need to create more support platforms for female principals to reduce contextual factors that contribute to women's difficulties in their leadership practices.


Masters Degrees. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.