An exploration of female administrators' perceptions of their role: do the differences make a difference?
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Recent Ontario legislation by the Ministry of Education has targeted a goal of 50 percent as the minimum objective for representation by women in positions of responsibility by the year 2000. As a result,those few women currently in the field of Educational Administration have become a focus for researchers. The intent of this research is to contribute to the current knowledge and understanding of women principals in the leadership role. In-depth interviews with four experienced female principals were conducted centering on their perceptions and experiences on a wide range of issues that included: gender characteristics and impact on role, perceived differences as a result of gender characteristics, decision making, curriculum leadership, communication, the perception of others, and the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in the role. Narrative profiles were constructed for each participant and analyzed. A description for each woman emerged by an analysis of common patterns and themes in the participants' narratives. Results revealed that the participants were able to identify and to describe particular gender traits that they perceived had impact on their role. Moreover the participants regarded their gender characteristics as facilitating and enhancing the performance of their role. Common patterns for all the participants emerged from the data that conveyed a strong feminine imagery of mother and espoused the idea of school as home, and staff and students as family. Leadership ii styles demonstrated an emphasis on collaborative decision making, open communication, and apparent difficulty and ambiguity arising from the role of Curriculum leader. The results of this study also indicate that personal metaphors ascribed and embedded in the narratives are significant in conceptualizing and interpreting the administrative role.