Though ‘good’ intentions appear in the education sector, the concerns and problems previously identified seem not to have gone away despite the implementation of a number of ‘technical solutions’.
Theme 1: The representation of women within the leadership structures.
In the education sector, an increasing number of women are represented within leadership structures. However, they remain disproportionately small in number compared to those in the overall workforce. Solutions and initiatives in encouraging and supporting women to take up such positions seem to have some success. Yet relying on the ‘pipe line’ approach, which suggests numbers will come right with time, does not appear likely to bring around substantial change. Exploring issues around how women are represented within structures and how they exercise, or are allowed to exercise, leadership may well be more fruitful in addressing representation. The lack of concern with intersectionality and with placing women and leadership within the wider context of equality and diversity may well be hiding other injustices and examples of inequity (Coate et al., 2015; Lumby, 2012; Morley, 2013; Shakeshaft, 2010; Showunmi et al., 2015).
Theme 2: Where women are represented within the structures.
Women’s representation within these structures often appears to be in limited positions of power and prestige and, in particular circumstances, often when the positions are being degraded by wider social changes and agendas. It is also influenced by ideas about what counts as ‘work’ and what ‘work’ is deemed most valuable; particularly as those positions defined as powerful, responsible, and prestigious are more likely to exclude care and less likely to be held by women.
Themes emerge around the gendered divisions of labour, gender bias and misrecognition, management and masculinities, and the concept of the ‘greedy organisation’. Those thwarting mechanisms appear within the dominant language of leadership and within understandings and appreciations of culture in organizations and wider society. Undertaking an audit of these values and examining those globalised assumptions and policies which are ‘valorised’ (Lumby, 2012) is something on which a Christian organization might wish to embark, especially to identify how far, or otherwise, they are in tune with the Christian message.
Theme 3: How leadership is exercised by women.
How leadership is exercised by women is often a contested area with expectations placed upon the individual either as an incumbent or as a seeker of formal leadership positions. Yet much of the literature points to a concern around what leadership is and that it is neither value-free nor immutable. Instead the ‘leaderist turn’ with its links to the neo-liberal project and new managerialist (leaderist) approach raises serious questions for an educational sector which has placed, in the past, a particular emphasis upon care, nurture and community rather than on profit and investment for personal advancement (Grogan, 2014; Grogan and Shakeshaft, 2012; Lynch et al., 2012; Morley, 2013). Simply increasing the numbers of women in educational leadership does not address the deeper problem and bring about a substantial change.
Theme 4: The place of leadership development.
The place of development opportunities, including mentoring, emerges as a crucial but contested area which goes to the heart of the enterprise of leadership and organizational culture. A mechanism of ‘well intended benevolence’ may be operating in who is offered leadership development opportunities and what those opportunities are, with repercussions for women’s promotion to leadership positions (Hoobler et al., 2014). Development programmes may effectively be mechanisms for ‘fixing’ the participants so becoming a ‘safe’ solution that avoids the need to implement substantial change. There are further implications for the aims and content of development opportunities in the call for greater cultural competence of educational leaders (Lumby, 2012; Morley, 2014).