UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding the role of female school principals : an exploratory case study of four female principals in a metropolitan city in China Li, Bingbing


Women’s school leadership has been discussed for decades in regard to the influence of gender on educational leadership. Discourse on women’s school leadership focuses on unique leadership styles of female school leaders compared with their male counterparts. Literature on women’s leadership is, in most cases, located in an Anglo-American culture, rather than in a broader cultural context. Research on women’s school leadership in developing countries is marginalized. There is a need for researchers to adopt a cross-cultural framework to analyze the intersecting issue of gender, school leadership and cultural experience. This study focuses on the intersection between educational leadership and societal culture as well as organizational culture within which women school principals act in China. The objectives of this study were to: (1) examine how women school principals exert their leadership and their leadership styles in both public schools and private schools; (2) explore the lived experiences of women school principals in China to examine the conflicts and challenges between social goals and practices that seek to promote gender equity and culturally-based and institutionally-based patriarchal forms of domination within schools; (3) provide suggestions for future school leadership education in China for aspiring women school leaders. This research is an exploratory case study of four women school principals in a metropolitan area (Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province) in China. Case study makes it possible to explore the role of gender in female principals’ negotiation within contexts of personal life history, societal and institutional cultural expectations. This study adopted hybrid strategies for collecting data in the pursuit of triangulation. In addition to four semi-structured interviews with four female principals, data were collected by two additional techniques: document analysis and participant observation. Rich meanings were found with regard to how female principals construct and explain their leadership differently based on various experiences. The findings in this study suggest that women’s leadership in China is a dynamic process that varies with social, institutional and cultural contexts. They also suggest that understanding the role of gender in educational leadership without a cross-cultural approach fails to clarify the experiences of female principals in China.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada