UBC Graduate Research

A critical analysis of women’s educational leadership in China Jiang, Shuying


Leadership and administrative roles have long been associated with the male gender. Despite the fact that the number of female leaders has increased more than before, women are still underrepresented in higher leadership positions. The topic of women leadership has brought about the concerns of gender equality and social justice, women and the feminist movement, and women leadership styles. Burns’s (1978) research on leadership argued that “leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth” (p.236). Research on women in leadership roles in many countries, especially in China, raised more questions than answers as to how these women lead and what influences culture and society may have on their leadership styles. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationships between culture, gender, and women’s leadership styles in Mainland, China. This may provide insight on the influence of societal culture and gender stereotypes on women’s leadership and leadership styles of Chinese women leaders. It also sheds light on the educational leadership experiences of Chinese women leaders, highlighting the barriers, challenges and possibilities they have met on their journey to leadership positions. The key findings of this study is threefold. Firstly, obvious stereotypical or non-stereotypical differences of Chinese male and female leaders reflect that they could combine leadership styles of both genders according to different institutional needs and conditions. This suggests that although school leaders’ leadership styles and strategies are influenced by early socializations, they could choose to re-socialize into values and norms according to their schools’ expect. Secondly, the role of culture works as an extra-gender force in shaping women leadership practices and preferences. In these male-II dominated societies, cultures work as two contrasting roles in shaping the relationship between gender and leadership. On the one hand, culture could maintain the traditionally perceived gender differences between men and women. On the other hand, culture exerts stronger influences on certain leadership practices than gender-stereotypical ones. Thirdly, when it comes to the effects of gender factors on leadership, despite the efforts of nationwide ideological and political movements, and the legal means to advocate gender equality since the 1980s, two traditional gender stereotypes including males’ superiority over females, and the separation of male and female social roles have still persisted in contemporary Chinese culture.

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