Leadership is a vast topic, with different scholars coming up with various definitions, descriptions and characteristics of how leaders should act and how to be effective. According to some scholars, leadership standards have been based on male norms and cultures, and such stereotypes make it harder for women to achieve leadership positions.

Robert Vella, currently a head of department at Gozo College Secondary School, was recently awarded a PhD from the University of Sheffield School of Education after conducting research focused on women and leadership, in particular, educational leadership. The aim of his qualitative study was not to strengthen the premise of the underrepresentation of women in leadership, but rather to raise more awareness on women in leadership positions, the challenges such women meet before being appointed as leaders and while in leadership positions, and to come up with possible suggestions and recommendations. This was done by investigating the perceptions and experiences of senior female educational leaders in the Department of Education in Malta.

Although Malta’s laws relating to gender equity are in line with those of the EU, traditional beliefs and values in society still exist, meaning that in many areas of social life, women and girls continue to be perceived to be inferior. The gender gap in Malta in many sectors is one of the highest in Europe.

The study was framed within the constructivist and interpretive paradigm and took a narrative approach. Vella looked at gender and leadership through a lens of social justice rather than feminism. Throughout 2017-2018, in-depth interview data was collected from eight female senior leaders in the Maltese education department. The findings from the study demonstrated that women in educational leadership in Malta have to face challenges specific to them being women. Furthermore, the study contributed to an understanding of women already in leadership posts, and those aspiring to be leaders.

The study recommended, among other things, real family-friendly measures by organisations; organised professional development programmes for women in leadership and for those aspiring to be leaders; and training programmes focused on how to build healthy collegial relationships.

Vella’s research was partially funded by the Endeavour Scholarship Scheme, Group B, national funds. The study may be found at the link below.


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