Review of the Literature
This study examined how the work requirements of the principalship affect the quality of life for women principals. This chapter begins with an overview of the principalship including responsibilities and expectations of leadership in schools. The next section specifically examines women in the principalship taking into account their barriers, support systems, gender differences, socialization within the school culture, and feminine leadership styles. The chapter closes with a description of competing demands for women in the principalship as they relate to quality of life and restructuring lifestyles for balance.
Your quest as a leader is a journey to find the treasure of your true self, and
then to return home to give your gift to help transform the kingdom…
The quest itself is replete with dangers and pitfalls, but it offers great
rewards...Bolman & Deal (1995, p.102).
The principalship is the key leadership position in the improvement of education for all students (Wendel, Hoke, & Joekel, 1996). Principals create conditions for success by shaping the coherence of instructional programs, providing clear instructional goals, setting high and attainable academic standards, sharing information about policies and teachers’ problems, making frequent classroom visits, providing incentives for learning, and maintaining student discipline (Bossert, Rowan, Dwyer, & Lee, 1982). The effects of these conditions are described by Edmunds (1979), who argued that “one of the most tangible and indispensable characteristics of effective schools is strong administrative leadership, without which the disparate elements of good schooling can neither be brought together nor kept together” (p. 32).
Because of complexities in our contemporary culture, images and expectations of school leaders have changed. Schools and schooling have taken on the tribulations of our entire society (Hill & Hill, 1994). If there is a problem, education is expected to fix it. After years of exclusive responsibility for academic needs, schools now often handle health, welfare, and family responsibilities. Hill and Ragland (1995) explain this new paradigm as follows:
If no one in the home will teach or model responsibility and values, schools assume the job. If no one is available to baby-sit, the school opens from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. If the family needs help, from marital counseling to financial assistance, the school becomes the hub for services. If the community is strangled in violence, the school strives to provide a safe haven and a center for mediation (p. 6).
The school, as a microcosm of the community, is shouldering the community’s problems in ever changing patterns (Hill & Hill, 1994). These responsibilities create difficult and challenging times for educators, especially for leaders. The various circumstances surrounding leadership today demand that leaders are competent in fostering talents of others and establishing community to address problems (Sergiovanni, 1994).
The shifting roles of the school principalship and the need to build successful learning communities within schools is vital given the many demands on the principalship and the influences of restructuring, reform, and change in schools (Speck, 1995). According to Peter Senge (O’Neill, 1995), an organization’s ability to learn may make the difference between its thriving or perishing in the years ahead. The principal plays a pivotal role in building a school learning community (Barth, 1990; Glickman, 1993; Sergiovanni, 1996, 1994; Sizer, 1996). The principalship is a dynamic, multidimensional, and demanding job in today’s schools where a learning community must be created and nurtured. In a school learning community, learning is promoted and valued as an ongoing, active, collaborative, collegial process that includes dynamic dialogues that get at the heart of schooling and learning to improve the quality of learning and life for all members of the school community (Speck, 1999).
Effective leaders have a vision, the ability to help others develop a vision, and a willingness to take the risks necessary to make the vision a reality (Pigford & Tonneson, 1993). Helping people change is dependent upon understanding where they are coming from. Creative leaders use their talents to help others identify and use their talents within organizational structures (Brubaker, 1994). Creative leadership can also prevent derailment (Brubaker, 1994) and effective schools cannot function without leaders. Warren Bennis (1989) went so far as to state, “our quality of life depends on the quality of our leaders” (p.15). Principals must maintain their beliefs, commitment, and internal balance toward their personal vision and guiding purpose when faced with the mounting stresses and strains of daily work (Speck, 1999; Brubaker & Coble, 1997).
Marsha Speck (1995) developed “The Principal Model, “ which provides an overview of the principalship and suggests the balance of roles and skills necessary for success as a school principal. She identified several roles. First, was the educator role which deals with the instructional aspect and which provides the principal with “the focus and the ability to understand his or her students and school and provide, with the teachers, the appropriate curriculum, instruction, and assessments that will help every student in the school succeed to his or her full potential” (p.42). Another role represented in Speck’s model is the leader role, which encompasses being able to appraise the present, anticipate the future, and help develop a school vision in collaboration with various stakeholders. The role of manager, Speck’s third component, includes preparing, planning, organizing, carrying out and directing overall school operations as well as monitoring the evaluation process for continued school improvement. Finally, Speck identifies the inner person role to describe the personal beliefs and internal balance that the principal needs to successfully carry out their duties and responsibilities on a daily basis.
Today’s principals face many pressures…pressures of accountability, improved test scores, dealing with the media, parents, legislatures, and other interest groups (Gilman & Lanman-Givens, 2001). In particular, principals are increasingly responsible for student achievement as measured by external standards (Gilman & Lanman-Givens, 2001). Standardized test scores, which were originally intended to assist educators in diagnosing student strengths and weaknesses, are frequently the basis for judging principals’ abilities. Students must not only score high on tests, but the test scores, relative percentiles, student attendance, and graduation rates must continually improve as well.
A principal must make hundreds of decisions each day, and there is seldom margin for error. In addition, the principal’s time during the school day is “so fragmented that there is little opportunity to reflect on problems or improve performance” (Ferrandino & Tirozzi, 2000, p.2). Many principals report that they work from 56 to more than 70 hours per week and yet they never feel that they are on top of their responsibilities (Rodda, 1999).
Keeping a focus, setting priorities based on principles, and managing time effectively help a principal relieve stress and keep emotionally healthy to get the job done well (Speck, 1999). Stephen Covey (1990) identified the following characteristics of effective principle-centered leaders: 1) they are continually learning, 2) they are service-oriented and view life as a mission, 3) they radiate positive energy, 4) they believe in other people which creates a climate for growth and opportunity, 5) they lead balanced lives – living sensibly in the present, carefully planning the future, and flexibly adapting to changing circumstances, 6) they see life as an adventure because their security comes from within instead of from without, 7) they are synergistic, and 8) they exercise for self-renewal.
A person’s values often reflect the beliefs of their own cultural background. According to Covey (1990), “when people align their personal values with correct principles, they are liberated from old perceptions or paradigms” (p. 20). Centering on unchanging principles brings permanency and power into one’s life. Empowerment comes from understanding and applying the practices and principles of effective leadership (Covey, 1990). Practices are specific applications that fit specific circumstances whereas principles are the elements upon which applications and practices are built. Applying these effective leadership principles “will gradually produce a strong and healthy character with a powerfully disciplined, service-focused will” (Covey, 1990, p. 39).
This section examined the principalship as the key leadership position for the improvement of education for all students. Special attention was given to how the images, expectations, and responsibilities of school leaders have changed as a result of the complexities in our contemporary culture. An overview of the principalship was provided with the necessary balance of roles and skills to be successful as a school principal.
Women in the Principalship
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “I gain strength, courage and confidence by every
experience in which I must stop and look fear in the face…I say to myself, I’ve
lived through this and can take the next thing that comes along…We must do
the things we think we cannot do” (Quotable Women, 1999, p.39 ).
Definitions of leadership in schools have expanded (Witmer, 1995). A range of new dimensions and responsibilities has been added to schools, providing new opportunities for leadership. People with new skills and insights are needed to successfully meet such responsibilities. Power and leadership work interdependently and with complexity in a multitude of complicated settings requiring leadership styles to be “situational.” Women leaders are changing paradigms and creating new visions of possibilities. As women take on more and more leadership positions in education, the definition and understanding of leadership will need to be further refined to reflect, with even more precision, the qualities that comprise feminine leadership.
Traditionally there has been an underrepresentation of women in school leadership positions. Explanations offered for the underrepresentation have historically included women’s lack of aspiration for administrative positions, sex-role stereotyping, mobility constraints, family and child-rearing practices, lack of role models, and the inadequate preparation and qualification of many women for administration (Gupton & Slick, 1996; Leonard & Papa-Lewis, 1987; Whitaker & Lane, 1990). Many of the circumstances that supported these explanations for women’s lack of equitable representation have changed significantly and have resulted in several major shifts in the explanation of women’s continued underrepresentation in educational administration (Gupton & Slick, 1996). There is a need for these shifts to be more widely acknowledged in order to provide women with the kinds of support and help they need to continue to improve their status in the workplace.
Women face many barriers as they try to move up the ladder of school leadership (Lynch, 1990). One such barrier is tradition; the view is that “it has always been this way!” Traditionally women have had very specific roles in society, such as to have children and deal with domestic tasks (Shakeshaft, 1987). Even when women have exercised leadership roles within their community, it was usually in a behind-the-scenes capacity (Reinhartz and King, 1993). Of all the barriers, traditional attitudes are the most difficult to address because they represent the views and perceptions people value the most.
Another barrier women face in their quest to move up the leadership ladder is the gender bias that is inherent in our language. Spender (1980) described language as “our means of classifying and ordering the world, our means of manipulating reality” (p.2). If language helps to classify and order our world, then language plays a significant role in shaping our attitudes toward women. “Language is not neutral; it can be both creative as well as inhibiting” (Spender, 1980, p.139). For example, our choice of the pronoun “he” has long been the accepted way to express ideas about men and women. In this male-dominated perspective, there is a tendency “to identify women in regard to their relationships to men and to the world” (Geis, 1987, p.65). According to Geis (1987), the practice of using particular pronouns in the case of women helps to make women “invisible.” He goes on to say that “our language is also biased against women” (p.7). Often women are defined not as individuals, but through their relationships to the world.
Language is powerful and conditions the perceptions of people and their roles; as a result it may discount the potential of many individuals, specifically women, in leadership roles (Reinhartz & King, 1993). The language we use to describe women and men with regard to leadership styles is often not equitable. Reinhartz and King (1993) caution about the language used to describe leadership attributes of men compared with those of women. For instance, a man is described as “firm” when dealing with a difficult situation, but under the same conditions, a woman is often referred to as being “stubborn” (p.9). Along with the shifts in ways of thinking about leadership today, perhaps the language associated with women and the skills they bring to administrative positions will be better received and less likely to create additional barriers.
Kurtz and Boone (1995) provided tips for success for women in education aspiring to administrative positions. One particular piece of advice labeled, “Negative Work Experiences” states the following:
Work at turning negative experiences into positive factors to be utilized in reaching your goals. Negative experiences give you information that can be useful to you and to others; these kinds of experiences have been used by many as a modus operandum for high motivation, determination and a set of survival behaviors that dispel illusions and help elicit change (p.155).
This advice aptly applies to women for whom adverse work experiences can tip an internal balance in a negative direction by granting credibility to existing self- doubts and accusations. Common internal barriers for women include low confidence, perceived lack of advancement opportunities, poor self-image, and weak determination and motivation (Leonard & Papalewis, 1987; Orenstein, 1994; Shakeshaft, 1987). These barriers can persuade some women to relinquish their aspirations for a career in administration. For others who endure and actually overcome the difficulties, the results can be highly confirming and motivating. The problems for women are not the formal, tangible barriers, such as education or certification, but the intangible, informal ones that require an aspirant to be accepted as “one of us” by those already at the apex of the organization (Lynch, 1990).
When women are appointed to leadership positions, they enter existing social groups with established norms, beliefs, and assumptions that guide interactions and relationships (Witmer, 1995). A major problem for women is the lack of adequate networks, mentors, positive role models, and support systems in general (Gupton & Slick, 1995). Mentoring is considered a very powerful training tool and the one that is most likely to guarantee mobility and development within the organization (Witmer, 1995). Mentors counsel and advise, possibly open doors to new opportunities, and provide connections and introductions. They instruct those they are mentoring in the ways of the profession, its formal processes, and informal networking. Mentors can offer the mentee the psychosocial benefits of support, validation, and reassurance needed to enhance self-confidence and improve professional outlook (Hill & Ragland, 1995). Mentoring is what is most needed by women to help them cope in a system in which they are a minority. Women need mentors if more of them are to move into administrative positions.
The process of finding a mentor can be a challenge since the relationship rests upon a strong foundation of mutual trust, respect, friendship, commitment, and communication (Pence, 1995). A strong and open relationship that leads to trust has proven to be the most important key to successful mentoring (Playko, 1991). When trust is established early in the relationship, it grows with the relationship. As mentors demonstrate to their mentees that they are accepting of their fears, opinions, inadequacies, and triumphs, the mentees find it more acceptable to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them.
Many women educators remain unaware of, or deny the need for better support systems for women in the profession (Brown & Merchant, 1993). Ironically, female administrators frequently report more reluctant acceptance from female staff members than from male staff members (Woo, 1985). Traditionally oriented women often harbor resentment for and even openly defy women who break with tradition and assume positions usually occupied by males (Woo, 1985). Brown and Merchant (1993) address this issue in their research on support systems for women in leadership:
Women must recognize who they are, accept that they are leaders and role models for those who follow, and gain the self-confidence to convince others. By challenging the barriers they face, by developing networks with all those with whom they come in contact, by choosing and becoming mentors, and by following the advice of those who are now in leadership positions, women can have the support system required to open new doors and to be the ‘best leader’ any position demands (p.91).
Through mentorships, “individuals are able to clarify their personal ’visions’ of what educational leadership means, and also to develop a sense of commitment to a career in the field of administration” (Daresh & Playko, 1990, p.8). Mentorships allow both the mentor and mentee to gain a broader understanding of one’s place in the profession as well as one’s role within their culture. In addition to mentoring as a form of professional development, the existence of mentoring relations is also a major step toward finding ways to relieve the sense of isolation felt by many principals and to increase the opportunities for individuals to receive feedback on their professional performance (Daresh, 1990).
Networking is about knowing who can help you in an organization. Janet Johnson (1991) defines networking in terms of “a support system and a means by which women can get ahead in their careers; the process of developing and using contacts for information, advice, and moral support as one’s career progresses; and a strategy for solving problems and ultimately effecting change” (p.3). Johnson explains further that the primary reasons for women to participate in a network are to gain information and to meet other women. Those that are not part of a network risk being isolated from informal channels of what is happening, who’s doing what, and where the job openings are. The network in any system cannot be ignored; it is present and whether one chooses to be a part of it or not, the network affects everyone.
Networking can enhance one’s knowledge base, extend social interactions, and provide support on achieving career goals. Witmer (1995) stated, “feminine leadership style is based in participatory management of a shared vision and networking is an inherent part of achieving that vision” (p.258). It is essential for women to build on their own strengths of affiliation, caring, and nurturing (Witmer, 1995). Networking built on the strengths of women and the areas woman see as needing improvement can provide an opportunity for women to establish professional relationships and bonding, which encourages confidence and affirms female identity (Witmer, 1995). Witmer (1995) further explained, “women need to weave their own webs of connection, where talent is nurtured and encouraged, where there are a variety of interconnections, where lines of authority are less defined, and where there is a reliance on a moral center” (p.251).
In regard to gender differences, women traditionally have had to follow the precepts of administration established by men, and while these precepts are not adverse, they may not be as suitable to women as ones designed specifically for the path that women walk (Witmer, 1995). Women need their own validated leadership style, based on what works best for them as female administrators. Greene (2000) explains this further because not only do potential women leaders have to cope with the persistent images of male dominance, but the only professional literature available to the women trying to master what is demanded of contemporary leadership consists largely of information gathered by male policy-makers, presumed experts in theories of leadership, and male administrators on many levels of the schools. Experiences and insights of women, especially those in leadership positions, have yet to be explored widely and incorporated into the knowledge base. Despite individual similarities, with regard to gender, men and women clearly have differences in approaching tasks, dealing with people, and achieving career success.
Many women lead quite differently from men and in these differences lie great strengths. There is evidence that because women develop differently, they are more likely to demonstrate an ethic of care that is grounded in relationships rather than laws (Gilligan, 1982; Porat, 1991). Feminine leaders see the world through two different lenses concurrently and, as a result, respond to situations on both the thinking and feeling levels (Loden, 1985). The many roles that women play during their lives have provided them with experiences that make their perceptions and practice of leadership quite different from that of their male counterparts. As Carol Gilligan (1982) said, “women speak in a different voice” (p.136).
Research by Shakeshaft (1987) found that women use language that encourages community building, are more polite and cheerful than men, and use language and decision-making styles to help translate a vision for their school into action. Successful women leaders demonstrate high levels of skill in communication, problem solving, organizational savvy, team building, instruction and curriculum (Gardenswartz & Rowe, 1987). Although research studies have substantiated that women administrators perform as well or better than their male counterparts, women aspiring to administrative positions still struggle to overcome the stereotype of the “man in the principal’s office.”
Gender differences influence every aspect of organizational life. In a study conducted by Bolman and Deal (1992) on the political, structural, human resource, and symbolic frames in educational leadership and management, women were rated higher than men in every frame. Bolman and Deal (1992) said that these findings are consistent with other studies showing that “women score slightly higher than men on a variety of measures of leadership and managerial behavior” (p. 326). Just as school restructuring allows for “tearing down the walls and beginning again” (p.328), so can women now begin to redesign career paths and establish leadership styles, patterns, and practices that best suit their gender, as well as the times in which they live (Bolman & Deal, 1992).
Socialization Within the School Culture
Socialization is a process that enables an individual to acquire necessary knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes to adapt to a given situation (Hart, 1991). Within an organization, socialization refers to the process through which one is taught and learns the particular knowledge and skills of a role in a specific work setting (Hart, 1991; Parkay & Hall, 1992; Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Most of us go about our daily lives without thinking seriously about who we are and how we’ve become who we are. If we were to consider these questions, we would realize that our perceptions of ourselves are strongly influenced, if not determined, by the things we’ve been taught and the experiences we’ve had. Whether by accident or design, the socialization of males prepares them to be leaders, while the socialization of females prepares them to be helpers (Schultz, 1982). As a result, differences in the way men and women exercise power and authority may be a result of early socialization, when men were encouraged to be competitive and aggressive and women were not (Restine, 1993). Women’s assertive styles are still often interpreted as being overly aggressive. Bias in expectations and perceptions tends to influence the behavior of the powerless, which knows no gender (Restine, 1993). Gloria Steinem (1971) described the problem with socialization by stating, “the first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn” (p.37).
Culture is generally thought of as the normative glue that holds a particular school together (Sergiovanni, 2000). With shared visions, values, and beliefs at its heart, culture serves as a compass setting, steering people in a common direction (Sergiovanni, 2000). It provides norms that govern the way people interact with each other and provides a framework for deciding what does or does not make sense. One of the main points in John Gardner’s treatise “Leadership Development’ (1987) is that, because today’s leaders live in a world that changes more quickly than its leaders can relearn, the leaders must understand the larger framework in which change occurs. The only way to know this larger framework is for leaders to understand their own culture and history, so that they can draw on paths already traveled (Witmer, 1995).
The experiences of women leaders as girls, mothers, daughters, and sisters have significantly influenced the school cultures in which they lead as well as the ways in which they lead (Loden, 1985). This is reflected in their strong beliefs about the importance of motivating through the use of praise and modeling and the values ascribed to teamwork and input. Primary to women’s work in school is a focus on relationships, teaching, and learning, and establishing a sense of community. Gilligan (1982) discusses women’s concern about relationships as an “ethic of care.” This is evident in women administrator’s frequent interaction with others, in the kinds and amount of information that is shared, and in the time spent communicating with multiple constituents (Shakeshaft, 1987).
Feminine Leadership Styles
Whether by nature or through cultural conditioning, successful women usually define the role of leadership as one of support and facilitation. They enable others to make their contributions while simultaneously making their own (Shaef, 1985). Women leaders realize that power and self-actualization are not limited or rationed, but instead are expanded as they are shared (Marshall, 1992). Women use power to empower others. School change is predicated on the belief that, in order for change to occur, all who will be affected must be empowered.
Aburdene and Naisbitt (1992) identified the following attributes for women’s leadership that relate specifically to empowerment. Empowerment, or voice, is often considered the first attribute of “women’s leadership” that allows critical opinion and protest, as well as a challenge to domination and oppression (Aburdene & Naisbitt, 1992). Voice is a mode for manifesting internal truth. Creating the organizational structure to foster empowerment is the second attribute (Aburdene & Naisbitt, 1992). “When individuals feel that they can make a difference and that they can improve the society in which they are living through their participation in an organization, then it is much more likely that they will bring vigor and enthusiasm to their tasks and that the results of their work will be mutually reinforcing” (Bennis,1985, p.91).
Terrence Deal contends that the movement toward participatory management involves transforming the basic character of schools (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 1991). He views schools as a culture and believes that the structures within the system or culture of public schools cannot be reformed, but they must be transformed. This transformation would then change the basic character of the system being changed. Change is not easy under any circumstances, and public schools systems are highly complex, surprisingly similar across the country, and very resistant to change (Holzman, 1993). “In an era when the need to motivate is so important, women will do better because they are nurturers and value driven” (Billard, 1992, p.70). Because educators are typically very skeptical of change, leaders in the profession will need to be highly skilled motivators to bring about the systemic changes needed (Holzman, 1993). These leaders will also need to be people oriented and skillful at providing opportunities for the people they work with to participate in the decisions affecting their work lives, thereby giving them ownership in the change process.
Transformational leadership is viewed as fusing the integration of culturally accepted masculine and feminine roles (Langford, 1995). This style of leadership advocates participatory management that motivates others by transforming their self-interest into the goals of the organization (Witmer, 1995). Transformational leaders, in general, believe that people perform best when they feel good about themselves and their work. Such leaders try to create situations that contribute to that feeling. Although the facilitating skills inherent in transformational leadership may come more naturally to females because of early socialization patterns, males as well as females use transformational styles successfully (Langford, 1995).
Current thinking, reflected in numerous works on learning organizations, stewardship, and servant-leadership, supports the belief that feminine leadership styles, with their unique perspectives, insights, and innovative ways of dealing with their worlds, make the kind of leaders we need to take us into the new millennium and beyond (Cantor, Bernay, & Stoess, 1992). Bennis and Townsend (1995) remarked that:
A new breed of leadership is needed to refocus and reshape organizations so they’ll thrive into the next century. Leaders should be women and men who understand that leadership is essentially a human business, who believe that the quality of life for everyone is improved when leadership is put into action, and who use their commitment, convictions, and constituencies for the greater good (p.89).
O’Brien (1996) notes:
Women’s style of leadership focuses on relationships and on meeting the needs of others – guiding, leading, teaching, decision making, having supreme organizational skills, and handling conflict between valued constituents…perhaps women do have a ‘leadership advantage’ in their ability to communicate, to prioritize, to see the broad picture (pp. 6-8).
The choice of jobs for which women aspire in educational leadership can contribute to the barriers they encounter (Brown & Irby, 1996). School populations are increasingly diverse, yet the teaching force continues to be predominantly white, female, and middle class (Cooper, Beare, & Thorman, 1990; Larke, 1990). More and more women are entering the workforce. Whether by choice or necessity, the increase in the number of women working outside the home has had a profound impact on American society, on families, and on individual women who strive to have a quality personal and professional life (Pigford & Tonnsen, 1993). In 1996, women composed 46.1 percent of the workforce in the United States (United States Bureau of the Census, 1996). They held 42.7 percent of the executive, administrative and managerial positions (United States Bureau of the Census, 1996). While women’s representation in superintendencies and high school principalships remains low, they held 58.7 percent of all administration positions in education and related fields (United States Bureau of the Census, 1996).
Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule (1986) elegantly describe the organization and culture of women’s leadership, “webs and nets…suggest a complexity of relationships and the delicate interrelatedness of all so that tension and movement in one part of the system will grow to be felt in all parts of the whole. Each person, regardless of their position has some potential for power; each is always subject to the action of others” (p. 178). As Helgesen (1990) notes, within a web both a voice and a vision are necessary to reach the values sought. “A vision can still be a vision if it remains uncommunicated. But a voice cannot be a voice unless someone is there to hear it; it finds its form in the process of interaction. The vision of the organization might define its ends, but the voice is the means for getting that vision across and connectedness is nurtured” (Helgesen, 1990, p. 223).
One of the major differences between the “old” and “new” way of doing business, is the structure of the organization. Helgesen (1990) described an alternative model to the traditional pyramidal hierarchy. Within this alternative model, the leader is not alone at the top, but rather is connected as a part of something larger, a continuum. In the center, the leader is simultaneously the informer, the listener, the constant, and accessible to voice of the vision. The “Web of Inclusion Leadership Model” as Helgesen calls it, is a design in which women position themselves in the center of the organization connected to all those around them as if by invisible threads constructed around a center point. The design empowers all within the organization to learn, grow, make decisions, and become connected to the organization, reinforcing the web’s purpose as primarily one of inclusion. A web cannot be broken into single lines or individual components without tearing the fabric of the whole. The design is based on trust, patience, relationships, and education, weaving together the fabric of human life, and spinning the thread that links events of the past with potentialities of the future (Helgesen, 1990).
“The great thing about a circle is that it does not box you in...As the circles extend outward, the fabric becomes more interwoven” (Helgesen, 1990, p.44). At every point of contact there is a point of connection. Emphasizing interrelationships, working to tighten them, building up strength, and knitting loose ends into the fabric is a tribute to the feminine principles of inclusion and connection. The administrative authority according to Helgesen (1990), “comes from this connection to the people….rather than distance from those below” (p.55). Women find this webbing structure comfortable because it is nonthreatening and familiar. Their whole lives are integrated much like a web because their home and professional tasks have always “overlapped.”
This section provided an in depth understanding of women in the principalship. The unique qualities that comprise feminine leadership were identified as well as the barriers, support systems, gender differences, and socialization within the school culture that woman encounter as school leaders.
Restructuring Lifestyle for Balance
True effectiveness and accomplishment require balance, and each person has the tools at her disposal to create and maintain it (Covey, 1989, p.161).
The greatest challenge for many women in educational administration is maintaining success while restructuring their lifestyle for balance (Aburdene & Naisbitt, 1992). School administration demands long hours, total immersion, and high personal visibility. Most men do this with the support of a wife (Marshall, 1992). Women leaders endure intense family responsibility while meeting job responsibilities. For most women a career is not a methodical rise to power as it is with most men, but a zig zag of ups, downs, and plateaus (Aburdene & Naisbitt, 1992). Years of caring for children contrast with years of “make it or break it” all out dedication to work challenges plus time for family, friends, and sometimes self (Aburdene & Naisbitt, 1992).
The struggle to reconcile home and work is still largely a women’s problem, and the decisions that women must make often postpone and even preclude their advancement in administration (Morrison, 1996). Bearing and rearing children conflict with full-time dedication to a career. Organizations have historically provided little support for women who confront the dilemma of meeting both their career and their family needs, and there is still some reluctance to address this issue (Morrison, 1996). Even for women without children, the responsibility for maintaining a marriage or a significant relationship sometimes seems to interfere with work, perhaps because of societal expectations about the role of women in relationships. Relocation is also difficult for many women in a relationship because often the husbands or partners are not likely to accompany them on a move.
The outside responsibilities of many women make it harder for them to meet the performance expectations held by their superiors (Morrison, 1996). Household chores alone take more of a woman’s time than a man’s time, even when no children are involved. Data compiled by Daniel Evan Weiss (1991) reveal that women who work full time spend another twenty-five hours a week doing housework, while men spend only thirteen hours. “When young children are involved, mothers spend seventeen hours a week on childcare, while fathers spend only five hours” (Morrison, 1996, p.52). Often women also carry out many of the social obligations involved in a relationship. According to Morrison, “societal norms may be more to blame than rigid personnel practices in organizations, but the squeeze being put on many talented women continues to drive some away and to limit contributions of many who stay” (1996, p. 52).
As women strive for success in leadership roles, demands on their time, their energy, and on their lives and spirits increase (Covey, 1989). In discussing the management of multiple roles, women often cite the critical importance of planning, organization, and attention to detail (Loden, 1985). According to many feminine leaders, the ability to manage multiple roles effectively is contingent on keeping the boundaries between these multiple roles clear (Loden, 1985). There is a struggle to maintain perspective and a healthy balance among the career, family, social, and spiritual dimensions of their lives. Successful women must confront problems ranging from increased visibility, to hostility from males, to resentment from females, to work overload, and finally to increased responsibility (Shakeshaft, 1987). Women also struggle with the impact that success in the workplace might have on their personal lives. To be successful often requires one to make work a priority, which leaves less time and energy for family, friends, and themselves (Morrison, 1996).
There is always a curious mix of emotions for the woman who combines significant life roles. Interwoven with her well-deserved pride in her accomplishments are her feelings of guilt and self-doubt (Crosby, 1991). Most of these women feel happy and fulfilled by their busy, active, and varied lives, yet at the same time they are overwhelmed. Mixed with the exhilaration is the fear of proving unequal to life’s tasks. “Our time,” comments Yale University psychologist William Kessen, “is one in which we all lead lives without margins” (Crosby, 1991, p.3). There are no margins, no room for mistakes. The tight schedules, the detailed plans, the carefully organized sequence of opportunities and obligations do not easily accommodate modifications, revisions, or corrections. The stress can be enormous as well as the excitement.
Faye Crosby (1991) discovered that women who combine significant life roles are better off emotionally than are women with fewer roles. “Even as they acknowledge stress and time pressure, they demonstrate less depression, higher self-esteem, and greater satisfaction with life than women with fewer roles” (Crosby, 1991, p.15). There is also some indication that juggling life roles enhances physical as well as psychological health. Conflict between life roles is not the major issue, though certainly it can be an issue for some women from time to time. According to Crosby (1991), “the major source of strain is the persistent difficulties within each life role” (p.58).
The teeter-totter or seesaw has often been used to depict people’s lives and the balance between work and the entirety of other obligations (Creswell, Olson, & Donovan, 1991). Female conceptualization of their lives looks more like a web or a tapestry than a seesaw (Witmer, 1995). The imagery of moving back and forth, of integrating, of seeing wholeness is captured in nature by the web and in art by the tapestry. Balance is easier to visualize in the context of a web or a tapestry. Approaching life from the concept of a web or tapestry makes it much simpler to move from one part of life to another because there is always a connection (Gilligan, 1982 ; Helgesen, 1990). And more importantly there is always some degree of security: “the web or tapestry forms a safety net with the intricately woven fabric of our lives that includes our past experiences, our relationships, and all of the wisdom we have gained through the building of our lives” (Witmer, 1995, p.126).
Educators frequently design ways to involve parents in the education of their children. They understand the importance of parental involvement in the development of successful, well-adjusted children. Principals and teachers meet with parents in conferences, family nights, and at children’s programs or plays in an effort to increase the time that parents support their children in their learning. Ironically, the role as a school administrator may in fact negatively affect their ability to nurture his or her own children in their journey through school. Often
this stress is even more significant for mothers, who have traditionally held the role of family nurturer (Hill & Ragland, 1995). Juggling both work and family is an endless struggle. McKenna (1997) points out that as women strive for the traditional symbols of success such as challenging careers, money, and power, they find themselves neglecting the personal and family lives that mean the most. She concludes that women’s pursuit of these new goals creates stress, depression, and ultimately, burnout. Solutions to the problem are not easy to determine. For today as never before, effective leadership requires more than hard work, ambition, and devotion to an organization’s goals. It requires staying in touch with one’s own humanity as well (Loden, 1985).
Peters (1997) also described the struggle of working women who juggle work and family, portraying women experiencing guilt and resentment as they leave children and family at home. Even though administrators are daily witnesses to the negative effects of divorce and parental absence, administrators are often put in the predicament of missing their own important family events while they are nurturing children other than their own. Knowing the right course of action and choosing an alternate course is a stress producer. Reasoner (1995) highlights the impact of job stress on administrators today:
Today’s school administrators need a new set of survival skills to avoid mental and physical problems associated with the job. Feelings of burnout, depression, and loss of control are becoming increasingly common among administrators (p.28). Developing and practicing good habits of physical and emotional health provide the principal as administrator with a necessary balance in the hectic pace of the principalship.
The environments in which educational administrator’s work are characterized by ambiguity, immediacy, and are heavily value laden (Witmer, 1995). Rarely are there clearly identifiable touchstones of success toward which to aim. Each environment is unique in its setting, climate, constituents, clients, and colleagues (Witmer, 1995). Women administrators who find the balance between personal and professional life, who integrate successfully the three dimensions, interpersonal, task, and self, can be powerful architects of a new future for themselves and others. Their lives can hold a special sense of joy and self-confidence (Carr, 1996).
Quality of Life
The World Health Organization (1948) defined quality of life as, “the individual’s perceptions of their position in life, in the context of the cultural and value system in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards, and concerns.” The term quality of life means different things to different people, reflecting the knowledge, experience, and values of the particular individual. “Quality” is attached to many different facets of experience, from the most complete multidimensional view of the individual to the more one-dimensional and shared categories of social life that give meaning to our experience (Patrick & Erickson, 1988). The extent to which reduced quality of life affects daily living may sometimes serve as an indicator of its importance (Fayers & Machin, 2000).
Quality of life became an important priority in Western society following World War II in an effort to portray the view that there was more to having a good life than just being financially secure (Campbell, 1981; Clark, 2000). Definitions of quality of life have included subjective and objective indicators of both physical and psychological phenomena (Ferrans & Powers, 1985; Krupinski, 1980; Lubkin, 1986). Objective indicators such as income, housing, and physical function are commonly used as measures of quality of life, yet objective indicators do not reflect how individuals perceive and experience their lives. Objective factors are at best only fair indicators of an individual’s subjectively perceived quality of life (Briscoe, 1985; Campbell, 1981; Clark, 2000). To clarify some of the ambiguity in defining quality of life, individuals have employed terms such as health-related quality of life (Revicki, 1989), quality of adjusted life years (Williams, 1985) and quality of being (Benner, 1985). As Ferrans and Powers (1985) aptly state, the lack of a common definition “leads to inconsistencies in the interpretation of what constitutes quality of life” (p.16).
The quality of life concept has been approached from many perspectives, including physical well-being, spiritual, psychological, social, economic and political (Spilker, 1996). Quality of life fluctuates over time, the result of changes in any or all of its component parts. Many factors, both internal and external to an individual, may affect health perceptions, functioning, and well-being (Spilker, 1996). Spilker (1996) explained, “personal-internal factors consist of personality attributes, motivation, value and belief systems about health and other life areas, coping strategies, desires, and life goals” (p. 26). These internal characteristics influence the person’s perceptions of and interactions within his or her social environment.
Quality of life depends both on recognizing personal and societal needs and acting individually and collectively in response to or in anticipation of those needs (Clark, 2000). “Individuals must develop the perspectives, values, and skills necessary to maintain the quality of their lives as appropriate and desired in their particular community and culture, and they must be enveloped by a society that is socially integrated, is cohesive, and provides moral and material support when needed” (Clark, 2000, p.700).
Stephen Covey (1990) identified the following five dimensions to quality of life:
1) Acceptance and love – People have a need to belong and be accepted, to join with others in common enterprises, to engage in win-win relationships, and to give and receive love;
2) Challenge and growth – People also have a need to experience challenge and opposition, to grow and develop, to be well utilized, to be informed, and to be creative. Leaders must identify, develop, use and recognize talent; otherwise people will go elsewhere, physically or mentally, to find their satisfaction and their sense of growth;
3) Purpose and meaning – People also have a need for purpose and meaning, for making a contribution to that which is meaningful. If a person’s work is not intrinsically satisfying or if the outcome does not contribute constructively to society, they won’t be motivated in the highest and deepest sense despite satisfying salaries, growth experiences, and relationships; 4) Fairness and opportunity – The basic principles in the field of human motivation emphasize fairness regarding economic rewards and opportunity regarding intrinsic rewards. When people become dissatisfied, when their higher level needs are not met, they fight the organization in one way or another in order to give their lives cohesion and meaning. This is why a person’s economic well-being and quality of life are closely interrelated;
5) Life balance – Cultivate the habit of “sharpening the saw” physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually every day. “Sharpening the saw” is the unique endowment of continuous improvement or self-renewal (Covey, 1990). Each of these dimensions is highly interrelated. To neglect any one dimension negatively impacts the growth and effectiveness of the other dimensions.
This final section addressed the challenge for women in educational administration to maintain success while restructuring their lifestyle for balance. As a result of the multiple roles in school leadership, there is a struggle to maintain perspective and a healthy balance among the career, family, social, and spiritual dimensions of their lives. Quality of life was introduced to reflect its relationship among all dimensions of a person’s life. Each dimension is interrelated and connected to other dimensions. Striving to achieve a balance within the various dimensions of one’s life, results in effectiveness, success, and a high quality of life.
This chapter reviewed relevant literature and identified key responsibilities and expectations for the principalship. Women in the principalship were examined to determine their barriers, support systems, gender differences, socialization within the school culture, and feminine leadership styles. Quality of life and restructuring lifestyles for balance were described in relation to competing demands for women in the principalship. Chapter Three is a discussion of the methodology selected for this study.
Julie Lynne Vandiver, Ed.D., is an Educational Administrator in Greensboro, NC. She's a North Carolina Principal Fellow (Class of 2000) and a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her professional interests include best practices for educational leadership and the effects of testing and accountability on teaching and learning.
Copyright 2002 Edu-Leadership.com. All rights reserved.