Secondly, we need to recognize how gender relates to the social construction of roles in schools. Even though they adopt the same roles, women and men may have different supports and experiences in those roles since they are not judged by the same standards. As long as women continue to experience the "female world" of the classroom as comfortable and secure and the "male world" of administration as cold and exclusionary, only a few women will run the risk of trespassing on claimed territory. And as long as men feel unsupported as teachers but acceptable as administrators, there is little hope that the pattern of "women's world/men's world" will be interrupted.

Thirdly, we need to recognize that access does not necessarily mean equity. If being a man in schools is an advantage and being a woman remains a detriment, we must look critically at the qualities and behaviours deemed suitable for future administrators. Unless these include qualities traditionally claimed by women, then the cycle of male advantage will be unbroken. We also must question the types of appointments to which men and women are assigned if we are truly interested in assuring equity.

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In designing strategies for career advancement for women and men in education, we need to carefully consider how women and men view the roles they undertake in schools. When we study both women and men "on their own terms," information can be gathered for a reconstruction of those roles in a manner to transform rather than repeat them. Understanding the common elements in women's experiences as teachers and principals is an important step toward understanding how these women manage to give meaning to their lives and make sense of their social world in schools. They have much to teach us, though their voices are often muffled and difficult to hear.


Cecilia Reynolds has taught elementary and secondary school for 17 years, and is now an associate professor in the Faculty of Education, Brock University. She lives in St. Catherines, Ontario, with her husband and two children.

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  1. This is my doctoral dissertation research at the University of Toronto entitled: "Naming the Experience: Women, Men and Their Changing Work Lives as Teachers and Principals", 1987.
  2. Pseudonyms have been employed to protect the privacy of those who participated in the study.


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