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"Telling Our Own Story" : Women and Leadership in the Early Childhood Setting Open Access

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The purpose of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of how women, identified as successful early childhood leaders understand what it means to be a leader. This study focused on how 12 women made meaning of leadership rather than how they led in their early childhood settings. Using a "basic, interpretive" qualitative research design with a constructivist-informed, feminist theoretical framework, in-depth interviews with a purposeful sample of 12 women leaders were used in an effort to give voice to the meaning these women made of their positions (Merriam, 2009). The sample was made up of women who held the position of head of school, director, principal, or administrator in an early childhood setting. The intent was to provide broader commentary on what a feminine-centric approach to school leadership might offer the educational community. The findings from this study suggest that the leadership experience for women in early childhood is a gendered experience that is person centered, values driven, and context specific. These leaders were passionate and dedicated to their work. Participant responses indicate that although early childhood leaders value relationships and work hard to build community, they also experience loneliness, isolation, and emotional strain. The findings of this study also suggest that women leaders in early childhood feel that their work is undervalued because the field of early childhood in general is undervalued. They attribute this undervaluing to a lack of understanding by the general public about early childhood and an undercurrent of sexism that still exists in modern society.

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