Women's leader identity journeys: The influence of past student experiences on the formation of leader identity in women leaders
Research points to an underrepresentation of women in senior leadership positions globally linked to societal gender norms that are espoused by our heteronormative society. These gender norms place women as being less agentic and more emotional than men and therefore not fit to uphold the masculinised perception of leadership. Past educational practices are explored through the narratives of four young women leaders and their New Zealand urban secondary school experiences and how these contributed to their identity as a leader. Exploring how women may form a ‘leader identity’ during secondary school and how educational practices contribute to that formation is the focus of this inquiry. With a body of research in this area is growing, there is room for further critical exploration of how a student’s leader identity is developed during their secondary schooling and how this informs their leadership development. Further exploration into developing leader identity in young women could lead to more young women pursuing leadership opportunities in adult life. Because education impacts and informs young women’s self-identity, education can be used to confront gender stereotypes and assumptions and prepare young women for leadership roles in adulthood. This study uses narrative analysis to explore the lived experiences of four young women leaders aged 30 and 31 as they reflect on their time at secondary school; their leadership experiences there, and the impact the secondary school environment had on their career journey. This narrative research is positioned within the interpretive paradigm, taking a feminist perspective through two semi-structured interviews. Between the two interviews, journaling provided the ‘narrators’ with a tool to reflect and interpret their experiences in their own time to assist with developing a more comprehensive narrative.