Investigating the experiences of women principals in high schools in the Western Cape

Bosch, Mare (2015-04)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This research focused on the experiences of female principals of co-ed high schools in the Western Cape. It investigated the path that their careers followed from the decision to become a teacher to ultimately being appointed as a principal and then having to lead the school. It further investigated the personal, organisational and social factors that were influential along the way. In addition, it probed the motivation and drive behind their career choice as well as the barriers and challenges encountered along the way. The researcher interviewed nine female principals. They were asked to tell their life story, with emphasis on their career route thus far. Key questions were asked, focusing on the motivation behind their career choice, whether they had been actively prepared for promotion and how their appointment was received. The interviews were transcribed in order to prepare them for data analysis. Any content that recorded experiences that contributed to their growth and development in teaching was coded accordingly. This produced a spectrum of codes. The codes were then placed into a diagram and grouped together, based on their meaning and implications. Identified groups included education and training, self-belief, work-life balance, mentorship, support and the stereotyping of women. The interconnectedness of the group was considered, together with their collective impact on the individual principals’ career route. The research findings indicated that the career route of the principals was determined by various factors on a personal level as well as on organisational and social levels. On a personal level, qualifications obtained and the influence of parents, family and own teachers played a role. This was critical in preparing the individual for the career path that was to follow. On an organisational level, opportunities taken, work ethic, mentorship and gender barriers were factors encountered. On a social level, the stereotyping of women and the changing family structure were factors that had to be contended with. Once appointed, it was found that the support from family, colleagues and learners contributed to their success. It emerged that the potential of these women had been identified early on in their careers and that they gained confidence when they were granted opportunities to learn and grow. To become a principal was in most cases never their intention but something that developed as they went about doing their work with commitment and diligence. Throughout, it remained a priority for them to invest in the lives of learners and the greatest joy was derived from seeing learners develop into young adults who were contributing to society.

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