What are the challenges for women leaders and how can they be overcome?

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Answered by: miriam, An Expert in the Adult Education Category
This paper will explore challenges for women leaders and how they can be overcome to empower and motivate more women into leadership.Women in school leadership today face many barriers and challenges. With the changing demographics of students and parents as well as increased demands for alternative forms of education, women leaders need to be treated with flexibility and empowerment. Holtkamp (2002) states, “Women make up almost 70% of the workforce in school education, are highly qualified and achieving increasing success as they seek and obtain formal leadership roles.” Holtkamp stresses the importance of pride and personal achievement of women in leadership roles but notes, “…there is considerable distance to be traveled before women are present in leadership roles in the same ratio as in the education workforce” (pg.3). This research shows the barriers to female school leadership.

Women leaders often have families, and want it all. They want to be mothers, providers and leaders. They have a lot of giants to conquer in order to be successful. Women may experience both internal and external barriers. Holtkamp (2002) reports that the internal barriers are based on both perceptions of one’s capability to work in a leadership role and personal leadership styles. External barriers are described as obstacles that an individual has no control over, like lack of resources and not being included in collaborative projects. Many black women also report feelings of isolation.

Leadership has been the central focus of research in the field of educational administration. Organizations need effective leaders to meet daily challenges as cited in Gregory (1999). Holtkamp (2002) states, “Most administrators recognize that providing leadership is a major expectation for their role’’ (pg.4). This research project will examine the challenges faced by females in school leadership in Africa and issues related to women in higher education: their challenges and the ways these problems are faced by women in educational leadership. The number of women in school leadership throughout Africa appears to be relatively low and increases at a low rate. This poses the question of why, and requires an analysis of research on female school leaders, looking at the challenges they encounter and how they can be overcome.

Historically, the traditional role of a woman in some African cultures has questioned female leadership. In Kenya, for example, some believe that the Bible does not authorize female leadership to the extent that women are not allowed to preach or take leadership positions in their churches and this even extends to the school leadership. Such cultural stereotypes pose challenges for women leaders, for if people think that a woman should not lead in church, how can they trust women to lead their children in school? Yet some effective female school leaders can be found in these regions. The purpose of this research project is to uncover the school leadership challenges of women administrators and discover how women in school leadership have overcome these challenges in order to help upcoming female leaders to develop an authentic leadership foundation that can stand the storms inevitable to come their way as they lead.

Literature Review

A leader has the power to influence and to succeed in getting others to follow. Holtkamp (2002) states that it is important for women to be able to identify and evaluate their own personal characteristics. His study was conducted to increase awareness of the characteristics and attributes of female public school principals and to identify these attributes in order to develop greater attitudes; and demonstrate that personal characteristics are similar across cultural and ethnic boundaries. Nine female principals were interviewed and the resulting data was analyzed qualitatively. Five significant characteristics were identified: the drive to achieve, use of spiritual values, involvement in professional organizations, involvement as a community leader, and valuing personal relationships. Despite different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, years of experience, and age differences, all these women faced the same challenges and shared a common set of values and belief system. Female leadership involves setting the right goals, communicating ideas and delivering results besides taking care of the family and overcoming discomforts especially in societies that still hold onto gender stereotypes.

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