in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
In November of this year, Charol Shakeshaft, associate professor and director of the doctoral program in administration and policy studies at Hofstra University, and highly regarded as an expert in the field of women in educational administration, published the article "The Gender Gap in Educational Research" in Educational Administration Quarterly. In this article, Shakeshaft (1989: 325) points out that one of the problems associated with past research in educational administration is its androcentric bias, that is, “the practice of seeing the world and shaping reality through a male lens.”
While Shakeshaft had discussed androcentrism in earlier articles (for example, "Androcentric Bias" in Educational Administration Quarterly, 1986), here she discusses it as it applies directly to its impact on women aspiring to and holding school leadership positions. She calls for a transformation of the way theory and practice in educational administration are carried out in order that they might reflect the female perspective as well as that of other minorities:
because we now know that gender and race differences in behaviour and perspective do exist, it becomes important to examine theory and research for androcentrism and to expand theory and research to include the perspectives of nondominant groups. (Shakeshaft, 1989: 325)
In this article, Shakeshaft (1989: 327) details the six stages of research on women in educational administration which she feels are essential for the paradigm shift that is necessary to reflect the reality of women:
Absence of women documented
Search for women who have been or are administrators
Women as disadvantaged or subordinate
Women studied on their own terms
Women as challenge to theory
Transformation of theory
design effectively models the practice she is advocating since her study is a
comparative one which seeks the perspective of both male and female
administrators. The study targets
specifically four areas, which according to Shakeshaft exemplify situations that
have been problematic for women aspiring to school principal positions.
Impact of gender on successful teacher supervision
- Male superintendents’ hiring practices
- Sexuality as a problem for women
- Female superintendents’ hiring practices
focusing on these areas, Shakeshaft raises the awareness of those who are in
positions to hire and promote women as well as to mentor and train them.
Numerous studies by others (Dorn et al; Porat, 1993; Schmuck, 1996; Storey & Zellinsky,
1993) followed and supported her conclusions.
Let us briefly examine each of these areas.
Impact of Gender
on Successful Teacher Supervision
(1989: 329) emphasizes that gender identification influences both behaviour and
perceptions: “Gender and gender expectations may partially determine how supervisors
interact with those they supervise.” She studied the supervision of female teachers by male principals and concludes that
gender is an important factor in determining what is communicated and how it is
interpreted. Males and females
listen for different things – women for feelings, men for facts – and so
when discussing an instructional issue they might see things from an entirely
different perspective. The female
teacher may think of it in terms of a child’s learning, while a male principal
may be thinking of the administration of a particular strategy.
Equally important is the discomfort in communicating with the other sex,
resulting in female administrators having difficulty being “heard” by male
is an area where women are at the greatest disadvantage.
Shakeshaft discovered that male principals are less likely to give direct
feedback to female teachers. This is not the case for males supervising males.
The reason often cited by male principals for not offering criticism to
women is 'fear of tears'. The result
of this phenomenon, according to the author, is that women do not get the
corrective feedback they need to allow them to improve their performance as
educators and it impedes male administrators from being effective supervisors.
Hiring Practices of Male Superintendents
The second situation that has been a barrier faced by women are those
factors identified by male superintendents that affect their hiring practices.
They cited reasons such as discomfort in a close working relationship
with a woman, the perception of school board members, marital friction, and fear
of sexual attraction as reasons for not hiring women for principal roles.
Sexuality as a Problem for Women
The women in Shakeshaft’s study reported that they were cautious about
receiving personal attention from male superordinates.
Advice women receive to ‘dress for success’ usually means dressing
in ways that hide their sexuality. While
being attractive may initially open doors for a woman professionally, Shakeshaft
asserts that more research is needed in the way men and women interact in order
to understand this aspect of human behaviour.
Hiring Practices of Female Superintendents
Finally, Shakeshaft refers to a study by Garfinkel (1988) with female
superintendents who appeared to be non–supportive of other women and actually
hired fewer of them than their male counterparts.
Female superintendents reported the pressures they felt to distance
themselves from women. Hiring
women, they found, threatened their own credibility and job security.
Some reported their presence in the school board as being the token
this article, Shakeshaft brings to light a number of important issues.
Not only does she advocate for research which includes the female
perspective, she also stresses the need for studying gender and organizations.
If men and women are to learn and work as equals in schools, gender
differences must be considered. Adult
educators, from potential mentors to superintendents to instructors in principal
qualification courses, must be aware of them in order to appreciate and to
provide appropriately for the learning and leadership styles of both men and
Dorn, S.M.,C.L. O'Rourke,
and R. Papalewis (2001). "Women in educational administration: Nine case
studies." National Forum of Educational Administration and Supervision
Journal 17E (4). Available online: http://www.nationalforum.com/DORNeas.html.
Garfinkel, B. (1988). Ways men and women in school administration conceptualize the administrative team. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Hempstead, NY: Hofstra University.
L. Karin. (1985, December). The woman in the principal’s chair in Canada, Phi
Schmuck, P.A., (1996). Women’s place in educational administration: Past, present, and future, in Leithwood, K., et al. (Eds). International Handbook of Educational Leadership and Administration. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Charol et al. (1984, September). Preparing
women school administrators. Phi Delta Kappan,
Shakeshaft, Charol. (1987). Theory in a changing reality.
Journal of Educational Equity and
Charol.& Marjorie Hanson (Winter, 1986). Androcentric Bias in the Educational
Administration Quarterly. Educational
Charol. (1989). The gender gap in research in educational administration. Educational
Administration Quarterly, 25(4), 324-337.
& Patricia Zellinsky (1993, June) Beginning
in school leadership: Women’s perspective on the first few years. The Canadian School Executive,
Prepared by Mary Dell'Anno (OISE/University of Toronto)
Citation: Dell'Anno, Mary (2001). 1989: Carol Shakeshaft publishes "The gender gap in research in educational administration." In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/1989shakeshaft.html (date accessed).
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