Women as governors : powerful leadership with a difference : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Administration, Massey University

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Massey University
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This research project involved the Board of Trustee chairwomen of six Auckland secondary, co-educational state schools working together over an eighteen month period using an action research methodology. The group met monthly to discuss issues of importance to individuals or the whole group. A high level of trust developed early and the discussions became the focus for the sharing of ideas, strategies and resources as well as an opportunity for shared problem solving and support The researcher, as a chairwoman, was a fully participating member of the group. The research was guided by a set of research questions. Data collection strategies included group discussions, interviews with each of the chairwomen and with their Principals and observations of Board of Trustee meetings. Data from these sources were brought back to the group who shared in the interpretation of it. There is no research information on how chairpeople of school Boards of Trustees enact their positions and very little information on voluntary leadership. The voluntary and elected nature of this leadership is an important influence on the motives of the women and on their determination to lead from within and with the group. The similarities in the motives and chosen styles of enacting the chairwoman's position were many and they corresponded closely to those described in the literature on women's leadership. On the other hand, there were also important differences which the current literature did not seem to explain. It appeared, therefore, to be too simplistic to explain the similarities by taking an essentialist view that could not explain the differences. This thesis looks to a feminist post-structuralist analysis to help understand both the similarities and the differences. Being a woman was an influential factor in leadership style but not because of gender as such. It was important because of the many subject positions taken up and held concurrently by the women and the ways they had learned to reconcile the conflicting demands of those positions. Some of these positions, such as 'woman', 'mother', 'wife', 'neighbour' and 'community volunteer' are very much products of the discursive ways in which gender relations in our New Zealand society have been constructed. The influence of some, such as 'responsible person', 'victim' and 'nurse' were particular to the unique experience of the person when growing up in their childhood family and within their marriage. The inpact of others, such as 'career woman', 'leader', 'educator', 'change agent' and 'trustee' were a result of choices made by the women about how they wanted to construct their lives. The order in which they were taken up and the interrelationships between these various subject positions forced the women to make decisions and choices about how they would work within and between them. Throughout their lives the six chairwomen had each occupied very similar subject positions and recounted very similar learnings resulting from the experiences. This similarity of experiences accounts, to a large extent for the similarity in motivation and in preferred ways of operating within the chairperson position. The differing orders in which the various subject positions were taken up appears to explain many of the differences in their confidence levels and operating styles.
Leadership in women, School boards, New Zealand, Educational leadership