An investigation of female heads of department: challenges and opportunities for promotion to headship in secondary schools: a case study of Migori Country

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Shelley Jones

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Lilian Vikiru


Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


Many attempts by the international community to improve the participation of women in leadership have been frustrated by several factors, such as societal expectations and multiple responsibilities; excuses have been given such as women are emotionally and physically weak as to why they should not be in educational leadership. This study provides a critical reflection on barriers related to the promotion of heads of department to headship positions in secondary schools in Kenya. The study used a qualitative case study approach based on one-on-one indepth interviews with one group of female heads of department .A focus group discussion was held with another group . Informal conversations complemented the research process in gathering information. Analysis of staff monthly returns documents was done to get the number of teachers in the county according to gender. A reflective journal was used to record and note any emerging issues. The finding from the study indicates that patriarchy works ironically for women in society. Whilst on one hand, it facilitates women’s acquisition of education which is a requirement for leadership; on the other hand male domination enhances the negative perception of women as leaders which thwarts all the efforts of women to leadership. The female heads of department had experience and skills; characteristics crucial for headship position, however there were several socio-cultural and organizational barriers such as unclear promotional policy, which made it difficult for these women to ascend to headship position. Individual barriers such as lack of confidence and low self-esteem, although expected to be factors did not, in fact these women were confident and their self-esteem seemed to be high. There is need for more support to be put in place to improve the representation of women teachers in top educational leadership positions in schools.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library