Women in educational management in Sarawak : a study of traditional and professional challenges.
This exploratory study examined how women managers in education in Sarawak
combine their traditional and professional roles and deal with potential role conflict.
The study is set in the context of an increasing number of women managers in
education in Sarawak and the issues this raises for their support, if they are to
harmonise their roles and advance professionally. The aim of the study is to furnish
policy makers at the national and state level with information to formulate a policy
document which could be adopted in preparing a strategy for the advancement of
women managers, taking into account their dual roles.
Both quantitative and qualitative paradigms are employed to provide depth and
breadth. The postal survey questionnaire was sent to all the 109 women in the target
population: all women heads and deputies in schools, teacher training colleges and the
State Education Department. There was a 91.7% response rate. Additionally, eight
women managers were interviewed in-depth, together with seven spouses and three
other senior women in education, who are influential nationally. The eight women
managers also completed time-log diaries for a week. Respondents in the survey
questionnaire included managers who, at one time, had rejected promotion. This
enabled the perceptions of those who had experienced difficulties in relation to
promotion to be analysed, as well as those who had not. Combining the quantitative
and qualitative approaches meant that they complemented, supplemented and
illuminated each other.
The study did not aim, initially, to explore the cultural dimension but it emerged during
the interviews that their specific cultural origins (Malay, Iban and Chinese) were a
significant determinant of the women managers' perceptions of their dual roles.
Indigenous culture was not found to be a barrier to advancement but the research has
revealed that when studying women in educational management consideration of
individual cultural contexts gives additional insights into their perceptions of their two
roles. Interviews with the spouses revealed corresponding views to those of their wives
pertaining to women's traditional roles; they also saw complementary roles in the
partnership. The close support of the extended family is a significant factor in the
study. For the women studied, the boundaries between their personal and professional
roles were not clear-cut. Work invaded their personal lives and family needs were
perceived as paramount when considering promotion. Values relating to caring and
nurturing imbued their professional and personal lives. The different cultural and
environmental experiences of the women managers contributed to their varied
perceptions of role conflict. Many had developed coping strategies which reduced such
conflict and supported their successful performance as workers, wives, mothers and
Impediments to the advancement of women managers are identified and possible
courses of future action suggested. Implications for policy makers at the Ministry of
Education and State Education Department as well as for future research are