Gender differences in management communication in secondary schools

PhD Thesis

Ibbotson, Julia 2003. Gender differences in management communication in secondary schools. PhD Thesis
AuthorsIbbotson, Julia
TypePhD Thesis

The research study explores issues of management and communication from a gender perspective in secondary schools. It arose from a concern regarding the imbalance of men and women progressing to middle and higher management posts in secondary schools in England, as shown in the statistics published by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in a series of three documents from 1992 to 2001. The research problem concerns the possibility that there are gender differences in management communicative repertoires, which have the effect of undermining women's chances of promotion. Using case studies of four middle managers of both sexes in each of four secondary schools in one Midlands county of the UK, from 1995 to 2001, I observed, audio-recorded, and analysed team meetings as a non-participant observer. I transcribed key sequences, and, using the framework of discourse analysis, I investigated whether there were linguistic differences between the male and female middle managers, in order to analyse the way that language reflects management style, and to explore the possibility that linguistic differences might influence the under-representation of women in management posts. The research used qualitative methods, based on the post-modern constructivist approach to gender as a social construct, and on a dialectical approach to linguistic theory, focusing on the role of context, pragmatic speech activity and the function of utterances within interactions. The originality of the enquiry is that it uses discourse analysis of real managerial transactions by male and female middle managers taking place in regularly scheduled meetings in the workplace. I also investigated the organisational culture of the four schools in which the meetings were set, using a content analysis of documents and semi-structured interviews with the headteachers in each case. Much of the research into gender linguistics over the last decade has been of a feminist orientation and focused on one interpretation: that there are distinct gender differences in language use which reflect very different management styles and that women are, by default, negatively valued as potential managers. The argument has been that women's style is interpreted as falling short of a valued masculine model of language and management which is regarded as the norm. However, in this thesis I argue that communication processes are different for men and women, because they bring different frame and schema to their interactions and that while this may mismatch the style valued by their assessors, however, the language of male and female middle managers is also influenced by frames other than that of gender, such as that of the middle manager role and that of the organisational culture of the school. I explore the usefulness of the Community of Practice model, which has developed over the last five years, as a tool for describing language variation between genders, across organisational cultures and within shared enterprises, since it can be used to explain the overlapping sets of shared linguistic traits between different linguistic groups.

KeywordsCommunication; Management; Leadership; Gender; Secondary schools
PublisherUniversity of Derby
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)hdl:10545/292112
File Access Level
File Access Level
Output statusUnpublished
Publication process dates
Deposited17 May 2013, 09:14
Publication dates2003
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