Beginning principals and the issue of gender

Year: 1996

Author: Dunshea, Gaye

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A search of the literature concerning beginning principals indicates that this area is relatively under- researched. Moreover, some of the literature is less than helpful for directing practice given the way in which it trivialises the work of beginning principals. It is also clear from the literature that male experience is the norm from which generalisations are made for all beginning principals. This paper reports qualitative data arising from an interview study of a small group of beginning women principals which tests the adequacy of the assumption of the generalisability of male experience to females. The data demonstrates that while there are some issues, such as isolation, the need for support succession, the management of change and staff relations, common to both male and female beginning principals, there are also distinctive issues for female principals. These issues include the androcentric bias in the literature, which denies the reality of the beginning woman principal and the experiences of sexism encountered when taking office. The paper concludes with a recommendation for more research on beginning principals, particularly research on successful women principals, and a call for research in this area to be sensitive to the increasing social and cultural diversity of this group.