Women In Educational Leadership In Greece Education Essay

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As far as education in Greece is concerned, despite the fact that the majority of the teachers are female (66% in Primary Education, 46.4% in Secondary Education), they are under-represented in school leadership. Official data from the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs show that in 1995 women constituted only 41% of the Head Teachers in Primary and 36% in Secondary education (Kontoyannopoulou -Polydorides and Zambeta 1997). However, an informal personal investigation, conducted in 2008, revealed that in the areas of Thrace, Dodecanese Island and Thessaloniki (where 35.3% of Greek Primary Schools are located), women constituted only 30.5% of the Head Teachers (significantly lower than in 1995).

The first question that arises is why this is happening. Exploration of the reasons for the under-representation of women in educational leadership in Primary Education is needed in order to answer this question.

Although there is some literature from other countries (see below) there is comparatively little in Greece. The main research on the subject has been conducted by Kontogianopoulou-Polydorides and Zambeta (1997), Athanassoula-Reppa and Koutouzis (2002), Kyriakousis and Saiti (2006), Vassilou-Papageorgiou (1994 and 1995), Saiti (2000), Kogidou and Taki (2006).

All these studies involve secondary analysis of the data from 1995 or they relate to specific regions rather than the national context, 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 Kogidou and Taki (2006), who investigated the situation in 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.

The present project will be a systematic study, based on primary data from in-depth interviews, exploring the reasons for the under-representation of women and the problems they may be facing.

The relationship of this work to previous work in the area

Although women constitute over half the work force (Dencker 2008), leadership in general had 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, Fernandez, Castilla and Moore 2000, Gorman 2005, Sanal 2008). The same is noted in educational leadership, as well (Blackmore 1989, 1995). Traditionally there has been a stereotype of what a leader should be and as a result, women and others who do not correspond to this stereotype (male, heterosexual, white, glamorous, well-built (Kanter 1977, p. 42)) may be considered as outsiders in leadership roles. As Korac-Kakabadse and Kouzmin (1997) state, organisations can be powerful places that send messages about appropriate values and practices for those who inhabit them. Indeed, despite two decades of gender equity policy, and despite the social progress achieved by two waves of feminism, the masculine domination of organisational discourses and practices still exists adapts and thrives in multiple organisational contexts internationally (Shakeshaft 1989, Bell 1988, Blackmore 1989, Coleman 2000, Cubilo and Brown 2003).

A range of structural and cultural barriers that block career progress for women (Morisson, White and Van Velsor 1987, Davidson and Cooper 1992, Still 1995), have been identified, including:

Dominant masculine hierarchy and paternalistic relationships in schools (Funk 1986, Shakeshaft 1989, 2006, Saiti 2000, Blackmore 1989, 1995, Cubillo and Brown 2003).

Women's reluctance to apply for promotion (Randall 1994) due to either lack of interest (Shakeshaft 2006) or lack of expertise (d' Arbon et al 2002).

Lack of mentoring and support systems (Randall 1994, Coleman 2002, Blackmore 1999, Cubillo and Brown 2003).

Lack of adequate childcare systems and stress caused by role conflict (career-family) (Al Khalifa 1992, d' Arbon et al 2002)

Theoretically, gender differences have been explained in different ways. Early work in the 1980s discussing the management styles of men and women tended to give the impression that men and women were homogeneous groups, which could be read as a gender essentialism (see for example Cunnison 1985, Johnson 1986, Jayne 1989, Marshall 1984). Recently, post-modern thinking has emphasised the multiplicity of women's voices and the complexity of the nature of gender differences and identities (Lingard and Limerick 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. This approach has been adopted by Coleman (2002 and 2005), Chan (2004), Addi-Raccah and Ayalon (2002).

Furthermore, 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" (1952, p. 267). West and Zimmerman (1991) 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 (Lorber 1994). Shakeshaft (1989 and 2006,) Ouston (1993), Kruger (1996), Skrla (2000) and Skrla et al (2000 and 2001) develop this approach in their work on educational management. This study seeks to build on and further develop work in this theoretical approach.

3) Originality element of the project

The study will provide new empirical data in an under-researched area and will add to the knowledge on the field. The aim of this feminist research study is to investigate the experiences of women and men in leadership positions in the Greek educational system, and of women and men teachers who are eligible for a leadership position, and in particular to identify elements of the organisational culture that may have impacted on their careers. This study of the (gendered) culture of the organisation will add to the limited existing knowledge about women in leadership positions in Greece and the phenomenon of "the glass-ceiling".

B) RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Methodology to be adopted, giving reasons

This study will be conducted in 4 areas in Greece and will involve:

a) The compilation of available data of the proportion of women head teachers in Greece, and

b) A qualitative in-depth analysis of the reasons for the under-representation of women.

a) Data of the proportion of women Head Teachers in Greece will be compiled from an analysis of publicly available lists of individual schools and Head Teachers in each region in order to find out the proportion of women and men.

b) The qualitative element will form the main body of the research and will offer, an account of the meanings that are constructed (Bryson 2003) in relation to gender and education leadership. The methodology will be based on feminist research methods (Weiler 1988, Stanley and Wise 1990, Papageorgiou 1998, Iglessi 2001), adopting an anti-positivism approach and a continual awareness of the power relations between the researcher and the researched (Oakley 1974, Stanley and Wise 1990). The data will be analysed using the general inductive approach, to identify key themes relevant to the research question (the reasons behind the under-representation of women in educational leadership in Greek Primary Schools). This analytic strategy is similar to grounded theory and leads to a theoretical framework developed inductively from data and emerging themes (Strauss and Corbin 1990, 1998, Thomas 2003, 2006).

The researcher will be responsible for the research and her name and phone number will be provided to the interviewees as a contact. All the recipients will be provided with a written description of the study and written consent forms. The information sheet will also include the researcher's intention to record interviews if consent is provided. They will be reassured of confidentiality and that in any written accounts pseudonyms will be used. Schools will also remain anonymous in order to protect the identity of the Head Teachers. Moreover, if they are interested, they will be informed about the results of the study.

The research will be conducted according to London Metropolitan University research ethics policy, the Data Protection Act, the statement of ethical practice for the British Sociological Association. The research has already been approved by the university's postgraduate committee.

(v) Originality/PhD element of the project (if MPhil/PhD or PhD direct)

The study will provide new empirical data in an under-researched area and will add to the knowledge on the field. The aim of this feminist research study is to investigate the experiences of women and men in leadership positions in the Greek educational system, and of women and men teachers who are eligible for a leadership position, and in particular to identify elements of the organisational culture that may have impacted on their careers. This study of the (gendered) culture of the organisation will add to the limited existing knowledge about women in leadership positions in Greece and the phenomenon of "the glass-ceiling".

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