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Leadership Identity in a Gendered World: An Autoethnographic Journey

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posted on 20.06.2014, 00:00 authored by Kathleen M. Burke
The slow growth in women achieving leadership positions in the fields of healthcare and education, both fields in which women predominate the workforce, remains unexplained in the literature. Upon investigation, the research in each field did not adequately address the resistance to and lack of change over time. Autoethnography provided a research vehicle to write in a highly personalized style about the intersection of leadership development, professional experience and a gendered culture. This journey reveals the structural and cultural influences that existed as my identity formed as a leader in a gendered world. Bourdieu’s (2001) concepts of masculine domination, historical inaccuracies, and the intersections of identity, culture, and social structure guided my analysis. The study brought forth the relevant research relating to construction of identity in relationship to the activities, organizations, and cultural representations of the period and juxtaposed it with my experience. Through my own leadership journey, I analyzed the interplay between the socially constructed self, a career journey over time, and social change to explain organizational gendered structures and processes that prevent women from reaching leadership positions still held predominantly by men. Analysis of the inequality of the power structure in education may provide transparency about the number and steepness of the steps necessary to reach a position of leadership and explain the ambiguities women face when preparing for future roles as educators and educational leaders. The idea that the hierarchical organization, patriarchal culture and male construct of leadership narrows access and success for women is significant to the design of leadership preparation programs. As this study suggests role models, organizational culture and accepted models of leadership require better understanding in preparation for a career in a feminized profession.



Kumashiro, Kevin


Educational Policy Studies

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University of Illinois at Chicago

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Tozer, Steve Ayers, William Schubert, William Smulyan, Lisa

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