Perceptions and experiences of female high school principals of their leadership roles
Despite the persistence of underrepresentation of females in senior leadership positions there is now a steadily growing pool of females in senior educational leadership positions. It is this growing pool of females who have managed to advance into leadership positions whose experiences and perceptions of leadership may be vital to the understanding of leadership from a female perspective. This study sought to establish, from five female high school principals how they had attained their positions and what their perceptions and experiences were of their educational leadership roles. The study utilised a mainly qualitative research design with a minor supporting quantitative component. The entire population of female principals from Mahikeng, Disaneng and Ramatlabama in Ngaka Modiri Molema district was utilised as it was not feasible to draw a sample from such a small pool of female principals. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected by means of semi-structured interviews and closed–ended questionnaires respectively. Qualitative data analysis proceeded as soon as the first set of data were collected and continued until all interviews had been conducted. The process of analysis involved transcription of recorded data, coding and categorisation, and seeking for patterns among the categories. Analysis of quantitative data was done using descriptive statistics, that is, frequency distribution and percentages. The findings reveal that the female principals in this study perceived their educational leadership and management roles as those of: Planning, organising, monitoring student progress, defining and communicating the school mission and also nurturing a positive learning climate. They attained their leadership positions through their experience and qualifications, and as a result of the post becoming vacant. Their perceptions are that the position of principal entails demonstrating measurable outcomes, leading pupils, teachers and the community at large and being accountable to all stakeholders including the Department of Education. It is evident from the study that the main reasons behind the underrepresentation of females in positions of leadership in secondary schools are family responsibilities, lack of mentors and of networks. The Department of Basic Education should consider strategies to attract more females to educational leadership positions and females should engage themselves in self-improvement programmes for career advancement. More training in the form of workshops should be given to principals, particularly female principals in order to enhance their ability to be more decisive, assertive, interactive and emphatic in their positions of leadership. Females already in educational leadership positions should help other females aspiring to be leaders by mentoring or motivating them.
- Education