Exploring the experiences of female educational leaders in Bhutan: a narrative inquiry based approach

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University of New Brunswick


The purpose of this doctoral study was to explore the experiences of Bhutanese female educational leaders in a male- dominated society. The experiences of female educational leaders both in terms of opportunities and challenges are overlooked due to conventional masculinist norms of defining leadership. I explored how Bhutanese female educational leaders negotiate between being a female and a leader in a profession where leadership/administrative positions are predominately occupied by males. The study also sought to understand how their life experiences contributed to their chosen career path and what gender barriers they faced, and the role of gender in their professional life. Since the examination of the personal experiences of female education leaders in Bhutan is at the heart of this research, I used narrative inquiry paradigm by Connelly and Clandinin (2006) as my research methodology. My choice of narrative inquiry was grounded in constructivist epistemology that meanings are constructed by human beings as they engage with the world they are interpreting (Crotty, 1998). Thus, my research is formulated on two theoretical perspectives and they are feminist theories and interpretivism. The narratives of 15 participants were perceived valuable and essential not only in reconstructing leadership from feminist perspectives, but also in locating Bhutanese female educational leaders in a male-directed society. Five broad themes emerged from the data and they are; 1) Bhutanese female educational leaders are inadvertent leaders; 2) gender is the paramount challenge for women in educational leadership position; 3) gender influences leadership practices; 4) Bhutanese female educational leaders are community role models, and 5) Bhutanese female leaders are situational leaders. Along with key findings, I offer several recommendations for creating an equitable and just society, the most notable being a call to gender-equitable child raising practices. The recommendations suggested are realistic for empowering Bhutanese women.