First-time Female Principals: Perceptions of Wellbeing

Delaney, Susan
Smith, Alison
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Master of Educational Leadership
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Auckland University of Technology

The aim of this research was to critically examine first-time female principals’ perceptions of their wellbeing. The term ‘wellbeing’ has become common vernacular, and recently has been acknowledged in the realm of education, indicating that it was an issue worthy of further investigation. Given the demanding and complex roles of a principal, this study sought to explore the perceptions of wellbeing for first-time female principals. It attempted to interpret their perceptions of how wellbeing impacted on their leadership. Furthermore, the research explored the perceived enablers and barriers to wellbeing for this group in order to substantiate how wellbeing might be enhanced. This narrative research was positioned within a subjectivist ontology and interpretivist paradigm, and it utilised a critical feminist lens, that of a standpoint perspective, to deeply understand the perceptions of the women. Through an in-depth narrative methodology, the voices of four women newly appointed into principalship shared their compelling stories that uncovered their lived experiences of the role and how it impacted upon their wellbeing. This approach revealed three key findings. First, that gender inequality still exists in primary schools, particularly in relation to property matters. Second, that women in the study knew what to do to enhance their own level of wellbeing and took responsibility or action to cater for it, although other demands often took their focus away from this. Third, that positive relationships and an investment in social capital with all stakeholders in a school community was uplifting for wellbeing, but the effort expended in building social capital was at the expense of putting others first and a sense of obligation to all. Overall, the thesis concludes with key recommendations for first-time female principals. First, that the Ministry of Education critically examines the ways in which the nature of property matters that these women experience reinforce gendered inequalities and expectations. Additionally, that Boards of Trustees ensure that the women manage their own wellbeing. Finally, that Boards of Trustees ensure that systems are created so that first-time female principals invest in their social capital to improve leadership effectiveness and levels of wellbeing.

New Zealand , Educational Leadership , Narrative methodology , Primary schools , Feminist perspective
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