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Leveraging Women’s Leadership Talent to Promote a Social Justice Agenda in Ethiopian Schools

by Abebayehu Aemero Tekleselassie & Virginia Roach - 2021

Background: Research that identifies and celebrates the positive attributes of women educational leaders advancing a social justice agenda in traditionally male-dominated, Sub-Saharan African (SSA) societies is sparse. Studying female educational leadership in SSA conceptually brings to the fore issues associated with the intersectionality of gender, leadership, pervasive abject poverty, and cultural mores from a critical theory lens that runs counter to the White, western, male conceptions of leadership underlying much of the existing literature in the field.

Purpose: With a focus on Ethiopia, we sought to understand the way in which women educational leaders, as traditionally oppressed groups in a patriarchal society, utilize their past marginalization as they advance a social justice agenda to promote educational opportunities for traditionally underserved students, particularly females.

Research Design: Using transformative leadership as our theoretical lens and semi-structured interviews as our methodology, we conducted a grounded phenomenological study of eight Ethiopian women who were in educational leadership positions ranging from assistant principal to regional supervisors. We recruited the women leaders through direct contact, reputational nomination, and leadership positions they held.

Findings/Results: Our findings paint a portrait of these female leaders as tenacious and determined, with a strong sense of self-agency and moral courage, whose identities are born out of their humble beginning and multi-focal understanding of issues from being female, from poor communities, submersed in male-dominated culture. These identities drove the participants to work towards emancipatory policies to acknowledge and intervene in “power differences” that directly influence school performance for girls and women in Ethiopia.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Increasing workforce diversity with respect to gender, recasting leadership preparation programs as equity-oriented institutions, and addressing key public policies to support women in leadership positions are foundational recommendations that can lead to gender equity in education in Ethiopia.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 8, 2021, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23786, Date Accessed: 9/21/2021 10:01:18 AM

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About the Author
  • Abebayehu Aemero Tekleselassie
    George Washington University
    E-mail Author
    ABEBAYEHU AEMERO TEKLESELASSIE, Ph.D., is an associate professor of educational leadership and administration at the George Washington University’s School of Education and Human Development. His research centers broadly on school leadership development and career mobility patterns of school principals in the United States. In addition, his work examines the production of systemic inequalities in leadership selection, support, and development with a focus on women and minority principals in both the United States and Ethiopia. His most recent work appears in Educational Policy Journal, International Journal of Educational Reform, and Leadership and Policy in Schools. Dr. Tekleselassie is the current President of the International Society for Educational Planning and a former U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Ethiopia.
  • Virginia Roach
    Johns Hopkins University
    E-mail Author
    VIRGINIA ROACH, Ph.D., is currently the executive director of the Center for Talented Youth at the Johns Hopkins University. Formerly the Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University and the Graduate School of Education at Bank Street College, Dr. Roach’s research agenda has focused on women in high levels of educational leadership both in the United States and other countries. In the United States, she has also extensively studied state education policy related to leadership and teacher development, and policy related to the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education program, in part, while serving state policymakers through the National Association of State Boards of Education. Dr. Roach is the 2021 medalist of the New York Academy of Public Education and was named one of the top 35 women in higher education by Diverse Education in 2020.
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