Australian Journal of Education

Article Title

Women principals in small schools in South Africa


South Africa presents a distinctive and varied context in which to explore the experience of women principals. The article draws on a larger data set to explore the interplay of gender and school size in seven schools with 200 students or fewer. From this study, we conclude that gender remains a potent influence on the career and experience of women, but that it is influenced by other factors such as poverty, race, language and the size of the school. Small schools offer women a less competitive path to the principalship, but may also maroon them in a low-paid, low-status and extremely challenging role. In this context some women attempt to neutralise gender by denying its impact; others try to unsettle it by creating social capital from female attributes stereotypically viewed as limiting, such as a maternal approach to leadership. They may thereby only embed further the negative view of women’s leadership capacity.