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An exploration into the development of female leadership capability in the Saudi Arabian education sector

Author: 
Abdulrahman M. Alshabeb, Riam K. Almaqrn and Abdulaziz A. Alsayegh
Subject Area: 
Social Sciences and Humanities
Abstract: 

The twenty-first century has witnessed an ever increasing range of approaches being taken to leadership. Many of these have sought specifically to distinguish this from management by developing innovative theoretical perspectives and models, which have helped to deepen our understanding of this concept. Some of these approaches have explored the possibility of a gendered dimension to leadership styles and have attempted to identify the multiple factors which prevent women from breaking through the glass ceiling and achieving their true potential. Whilst in the Western world, feminism had a major impact on women’s role in society and in the workplace since the late 1960s, Saudi women were not admitted to university until the end of that decade but now they occupy a number of key positions within Saudi society. This essay examines what is known about the challenges faced by these women and the aspirations of those who hope to follow in their footsteps. This essay begins by attempting to distinguish between the two interrelated concepts of management and leadership and will then consider some of the diverse definitions of leadership which have been formulated. The following section briefly outlining some of the key theories and models which have been developed with regard to educational leadership. Following this the focus shifts to examine one of the key debates in the field of leadership studies, namely whether leaders are born or whether they can be made. Another of the areas which has also prompted increasing academic interest is the extent to which gender influences not only styles of leadership but how we as societies choose to understand the meaning of leadership. This is followed by a discussion of a review of literature relating to the varied challenges faced by women aspiring to leadership positions, particularly in the educational field. Having reviewed some of the key debates and concepts in leadership studies, the concluding sections of this essay focus on female leadership in Saudi Arabia, a society which is widely viewed as being one of the most challenging environments for women. After briefly contextualising Saudi society and its education sector, the results of several studies concerning the challenges faced by women in leadership positions in academia in the Kingdom will be used to highlight the similarities and the differences in the challenges faced by Saudi women and their non-Saudi counterparts. After a series of recommendations on future strategies which can be employed to encourage female leadership in academia in the Kingdom, this essay concludes with some personal reflections on my aspirations to a role in academic leadership as Saudi citizens.

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