The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Women in Education

Women have difficulty advancing up the career ladder in many
professions.   Education  is  no exception even though it  is  a
field  heavily  staffed by women.   Most of  the  decision-making
administrative   positions  of   superintendent,   assistant
superintendent and principal are held by men.

Eighty-six percent of the elementary school teachers in  New
Jersey  are  women.    However,  only  eighteen  percent  of  the
elementary  school principals are women.   The pattern   persists
in   higher  administrative  levels.  Females have an 11%  chance
of  becoming a middle school principal, a  9% chance of becoming
a high  school principal,  a 9% chance of becoming   an   assistant
superintendent  and  a  4.5%  chance  of becoming a superintendent.

This  situation will not improve in the near  future  mainly
because   administrators   in  the  position  of   hiring   other
administrators  to  work with them prefer to choose  people  like
themselves.  This  is  human nature.   Since women are  obviously
different  from men,  not only in appearance but also in the  way
they think,  it is difficult for men to choose them over their own
sex.   There is even a name for this phenomena.  It is called the
“old boy network.”  As a result, women are denied the opportunity                                                         of   contributing   to  the  decision-making  process   and   the
educational  system is denied the special insights and experience
of women.

Dr.  Cynthia  Norris  reported   on   the  brain  hemisphere
characteristics  and   creative  leadership   among   selected
educational   administrators   in  Tennessee.  She   studied   27
superintendents,  37 principals, and 39 supervisors chosen  by  a
panel  of  experts  for  their  effective  leadership,  plus   12
superintendents  chosen at random as a check.   She  was  looking
for  the  combination of left-brain logical thinking  and  right-
brain  intuitive  thought that current theories hold is the  best
for  creative  leaders.

The superintendents,  all men, were strongly oriented toward
left  hemisphere  style  and  higher  in  technical  rather  than
conceptual skill.  Principals, mostly men, exhibited a balance in
left-right  brain  dominance  and a high level of  innovation  in                                                               their   leadership   and  were  highest  in   conceptual   skill.

Supervisors, who were mostly women, were the  most  whole-brained
of   the   three   groups studied and  ranked  highest  in  human
skills.   Females exhibited a stronger  tendency for the  desired
whole-brained  leadership style than the males in this study  but
they had the least authority.

Dr.  Norris concluded by suggesting that women in  education
be  given  more line authority and decision-making roles  because
they  surpass  men  in  the holistic  approach  they  brought  to
leadership.   She  also feels that in this new age of  maximizing
human potential,  the time has come to allow women the  increased
opportunity to fill positions of authority in education.

Unless  something changes,  education is going to  lose  its
most valuable resource—intelligent,  imaginative women.  We are
not using the potential of the women who are already in the field
and  since  it  is very difficult for women  to  break  into  the
administrative ranks,  we will not be attracting women innovators
in the future.

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