Gender differences in leadership style has in recent years become an area of immense interest for study in the fields of sociology, management and psychology, especially in view of the increasing number of women that have begun assuming leadership roles in different fields. However, it is known that there are basic differences in the ways males and females function as leaders and the issue arises if such differences are associated with gender. This issue has made researchers to attempt in providing a means to explain why very few women have been able to assume leadership roles. There is no doubt that women are forming a larger proportion of the work force but very few are able to hold top management and administration functions. It is for this reason that researchers have been focusing on determining if women lack the required skills in attaining senior positions or whether they are different in terms of their leadership styles and perceptions. This is a paper on gender differences in leadership styles and examines the relevant literature in focusing on the leadership styles of male and female school principals. The issues to be examined relate to functions of school principals in regard to instructional leadership, ethical practices, interpersonal relationships, decision making and practices of professional development.
Vecchio (2002) conducted research to examine the gender differences amongst school principals. Although the number of females responding to the questions was small, they were still considered to be a significant group. The researcher found some basic differences in the leadership styles of male and female principals. Male principals had much more experience than female principals. In clear indication of the leadership style of women, it was found that female principals conducted more weekly faculty meetings than their male counterparts. Women were not found to be very active in attending national or regional level conventions. The most significant difference amongst male and female principles appears to be that females are more worried about the ways in which a typical school day will be spent. While 77 percent females reported that their main duty was to act as instructional leaders, only 58 percent men reported having similar viewpoints. However, both groups confirmed that most of their day was spent in general managerial functions. In terms of the time spent by each group to allocated activities, both agreed that maintaining contact with teachers and maintaining discipline amongst students were the most important functions of school principals. Lesser time was devoted by both groups on issues of general management. In terms of the manner in which a typical day is spent by both groups, almost 80 percent women principals were found to be involved in teaching as well as administrative work. They used 48 percent of their time in teaching. In contrast, only 47 percent male principals were allotted work related to both administration and teaching. Male principals were found to be using only 35 percent of their time on teaching. It is therefore evident that the notion of instructional leadership is considerably impacted with the percentage of time that is spent on teaching in a typical school day. It is also evident that female principals have greater work load of teaching, which makes them vulnerable in being less effective towards providing instructional leadership as compared to their male counterparts (Eagly and Karau, 2002). Other issues that need to be examined in determining gender differences in gender differences in leadership style between male and female school principals are: The leadership approach that characterizes school principals Whether the leadership styles of female principals considerably different from their male counterparts Although there is some difference in the leadership styles of male and female p