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Speed bumps and l-plates: Female deputy principals' perceptions of the barriers in aspiring to principalship

The majority of New Zealand's teaching workforce is female. In leadership positions, women outnumber men in the deputy principal role, yet are significantly underrepresented in principalship. How do women themselves explain this leadership disparity? This small-scale qualitative research study explores the perceived barriers in aspiring to principalship that are held by female deputy principals in the primary sector. It utilises semi-structured interviews to gather data from seven female deputy principals in primary schools in the Bay of Plenty. Data is analysed thematically in order to extrapolate the significant barriers identified by the participants. While international academic literature has acknowledged the disproportional gender representation within principalship and identified potential factors, the New Zealand research base is still limited. Further research into the barriers facing female leadership may benefit future female aspiring principals in New Zealand by providing an awareness of the potential challenges and offer possible strategies to contend with the identified barriers. The research findings indicate a common set of factors perceived to pose barriers to women aspiring to principalship. These include: the impact of gender, the evolving role of principalship, the demands of management versus leadership, the maintenance of work/life balance, familial obligations, participant's self perceptions and the desire for a best fit school as a first time principal. This study suggests that further professional support structures and leadership development opportunities be created to respond to the specific needs of aspiring female principals. The provision of targeted programmes would go some way towards addressing the barriers identified by participants and ensuring the promotion and cultivation of aspiring female leaders that is necessary to sustain future educational leadership in New Zealand primary schools.
Type of thesis
Neidhardt, C. (2009). Speed bumps and l-plates: Female deputy principals’ perceptions of the barriers in aspiring to principalship (Thesis, Master of Educational Leadership (MEdLeadership)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4314
The University of Waikato
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