Gender And School Management In Greece Education Essay

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There has long been a social constructionist strand in feminist theory. As Simone de Beauvoir wrote in the "Second Sex": "One is not born, but rather becomes a woman…it is civilisation as a whole that produces this creature…which is described as feminine" emmaki. emmaki argued that gender is routinely, methodologically and recurrently produced through social interaction. According to them, gender is something a person "does" according to societal rules, rather than something a person "is" or "has". It is something never completely accomplished but is always in production through social interaction

Recently, post-modern thinking has emphasised the multiplicity of women's voices and the complexity of the nature of gender differences and identities (Still, 1995). Post-modern thinking reminds us that there are many ways of being male or female and that assuming that all women and all men have had similar life experiences and have been socialised in the same way is not only limiting but unrealistic as well.

Although women constitute over half of the work-force (Dencker 2008) and in Greece according to Eurostat, women were 51,7% of the work-force in 2008, leadership in general has been identified with men (Schein 1994, 2001, Grace 1995). This phenomenon seems to be pervasive through time and has been reported by various researchers and in various countries (Castilla 2005, Castilla and Moore 2000, Gorman 2005, Sanal 2008).

In Greece, according to the Constitution «all men and women are equal before the law and have equal rights and obligations» (Article 14, 1981), so there are policies to prevent discriminations against women and create equal access to all professions.

Despite this, several studies have shown that women are under-represented in several areas of the economic and social life, especially in the fields of science, research, the decision making centres and in the higher ranks of several organisations.

For example in the Greek Parliament, there is only one woman leader of a political party (Mrs Papariga for the Communist Party). Out of 300 MPs only 32 are women and only 8/39 are members of the government (5/10 ministers and 3/24 deputy ministers), while women constitute 56% of the Greek population (2001 Inventory).

All these studies involve secondary analysis of the data from 1995 (when data was collected because it was needed for a meeting that the Misters of Education of the European countries held on this subject. Data was collected only for that purpose. Data has not been routinely collected, and hence there are not recent data available), relating to specific regions rather than the national context and interpretations that draw on the international literature, so that they are not representative of the situation on a national level.

In addition, the above only drew on data for urban areas (Athens and Thessaloniki) and therefore the results cannot be applied to the whole of the country, as the situation is different in rural areas that are away from the decision-making centres [1] .

Moreover, the studies are mainly about secondary and not primary education, with the exception of emmaki, who investigated the official datasets from 1995 for the area of Thessaloniki, and found that women were indeed under-represented in the higher ranks of educational leadership in primary schools.

The above mentioned research is interesting but it does not take into consideration the country's social characteristics. There is no in-depth research in Greece about the reasons for the low participation of women in educational leadership roles and about the problems they may be facing. Systematic work based on primary data that will investigate the reasons for the under-representation of women in educational leadership in primary education is necessary.

To meet ethical requirements, a draft of the research plan was delivered to the Greek Ministry of Education and to the Greek Pedagogical Institute, in order to receive their study approval and to gain access to schools and participants. Interviewees were promised anonymity and confidentiality (therefore all the names are changed and pseudonyms are used). They were provided with the research purpose before asked to give their signed consent (of course they were allowed to withdraw without any consequences at any point they may wanted). In no way was their interview transcriptions forwarded to their superiors or other informants, nor to anyone else except the researcher and her supervisors at university.

Data analysis

Although the participants believed that both male and female teachers in Greece legally have equal opportunities for career advancement, they could see a discrepancy between theory and practice.

"There is! There is! [after being asked whether she believes there is an issue of inequality between the sexes in education] there is this pattern that has been inherited to us" (Maria, Female Head Teacher, late 40's )

The above comment suggests that although there are formal opportunities, there are several other factors that influence women's career development.

First of all, we should see why they have chosen headship. Most of the female respondents just «drifted» into headship at some point as a break from teaching which they see as a very tiring profession, while the males tend to do it for different reasons, like higher status of the post or more and higher qualifications

"I am tired […] I want to take a break" (Helen, Female teacher, early 40's)

"I wanted to leave from the classroom […] It is very tiring…." (Maria, Female Head Teacher, late 40's)

"I used to be the president of our union, there was the selection for head teachers, back in 2007. I thought it was appropriate for me to apply and so I was selected. It was a natural sequel. I couldn't go back as a simple teacher. Not after so many years in the union." (Paul, Male Head Teacher, mid 40's)

"I, along with my teaching degree, have a second degree in public administration, and I can speak English. I thought it was very degrading for me to have younger and non, or rather less, qualified head teachers than me." (Takis, Male Head Teacher, mid 50's)

It is likely that one the major factors affecting women's career experiences is family responsibilities (Coleman 2002). Marital status also impacted their ability to carry out the responsibilities inherent to their position. And men agree that it is difficult for a woman with a husband and a family to become a head teacher.

"[When I plan to apply] my child will be old, he is 8 now, in two years time he will be 10, he will be independent […] I don't have a lot of other engagements" (Helen, Female Teacher, early 40's)

"…the workload is so big that a woman, who has responsibilities at home, she has the children, she has other stuff, finds it very difficult to cope with. But I believe that a woman, and there are examples of colleagues, who has old children who are university students or have left the home, can be very successful." (Paul, Male Head Teacher, mid 40's)

"…there are my responsibilities at the home. I have to cook, clean, shop, help the children with their studies, take them to lessons, to their friends, I need to do the ironing, moping the floor, go and see my old parents, who can't be all alone!" (Marianthi, Female Head Teacher, late 40's)

"The home, the children, their job, tiredness, [….] it is a matter of family and professional difficulties." (Takis, Male Head Teacher, mid 50's)

A variety of studies have suggested various barriers that women face and thus they are under-represented in educational management. Among those are cultural scripts that identify feminine attributes as contributing to ineffective leadership and masculine attributes that contribute to effective leadership (Al-Khalifa and Migniulo 1990, Blackmore 1999, Curry 2000)

"If she shows that she is vulnerable and she doesn't have a very strict and aggressive behaviour. Otherwise she has lost the game." (Takis, Male Head Teacher, mid 50's).

"it needs firmness. It needs determination, self-confidence, strictness, organising abilities…I never thought I could make it." (Marianthi, Female Head Teacher, late 40's)

Latent discrimination (Coleman, 2002)

"I was treated in a strange way, with that smile, "come on, what does she know?"". (Maria, Female Head Teacher, late 40's)

"My colleagues were looking at me in a peculiar way. They saw that I am quite and they were wondering if I could make it." (Rena, Female Head Teacher, late 30's)

In addition all interviewees said that from their experience, or from what they had heard, at the areas where the research took place they knew that selection panels consisted only of males.

Women also tend to report hostility within organizations. Cubillo and Brown (2003) found a lack of peer support across the women leaders they studied. Coleman (2002) found that the women secondary heads in England and Wales that she studied were patronised.

In the present study, there is evidence of unhealthy competition from the other teachers and from the parents.

"They [the parents] tried to do some things that I didn't approve of" (Rena, Female Head Teacher, late 30's)

"They were questioning everything, at least at first, but after sometime some accepted her and some not. But I believe that there is always a big conflict" (Helen, Female Head Teacher, early 40's)

"They were trying to help poor girl because, as they were saying, she doesn't know what she got herself into. The first parents were by my side, but they were characterized by pity, compassion." (Maria, Female Head Teacher, late 40's)

"Parents could treat a woman head teacher like they were at war!!!!" (Helen, Female Teacher, early 40's)

Women's under-representation may be attributed also to internal barriers. That is barriers that the woman puts to herself like their own decisions not to apply for promotion because of lack of necessary aspirations (Shakeshaft, 1989)

"They just don't care." (Takis, Male Head Teacher, mid 50's)

"I just will not re-apply. I am suitable for being a teacher. I am for being inside the classroom, with the blackboard, my books, my little children…I am not for writing document, bureaucracy etc." (Rena, Female Head Teacher, late 30's)


Clearly, much research is needed to shed more light on the experiences of male and female head teachers and teachers. Further qualitative research needs to explore their career development, beliefs and attitudes and compare the genders. But the results of the study so far give an indication of the situation in a country like Greece and identify the issues for the research.