Case studies on shared decision-making of high school principals and the impact of gender

Rennie Richmond Schwartz, Fordham University


The 1980s was witness to major reforms in education. Creating a profession ready to accept the challenge of redesigning schools for the future necessitated a change in the bureaucracy. While principals had the power to shape the climate, attitude, and goals of a school, how they chose to use their power and how teachers were brought into the decision making process could affect the quality of teaching. Research on women in the past decade indicated that women seemed to use power differently than men in that they sought to empower others. This study looked at the role of the principal as he or she shared decision making with teachers to see if gender had an impact on the kinds of decisions a principal shared with teachers, the methods or techniques they used to share decisions, and whether teachers felt more empowered in the decision making process when working for female or male principals. Case study methodology was used to explore the impact of gender as a separate variable in decision making. Six principals, three males and three females, paired according to age, number of years as a principal, number of years as a principal in the current school, size of the school population, size of the staff, and socioeconomic status of the school community were studied. Aggregating the groups (male principals and female principals) showed that female principals gave their teachers more opportunities to share in decision making on every level; that they used more formal and informal techniques to build coalitions and develop community within the school. As a result, teachers felt more empowered when working for female principals than when working for male principals. However, when disaggregating the sample, clear gender distinctions were not found because similar conclusions could be drawn about one of the male principals. Therefore, while gender had some impact on the decision making of principals, that trait alone could not account for the differences found.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Schwartz, Rennie Richmond, "Case studies on shared decision-making of high school principals and the impact of gender" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109270.