Shifting leadership out of the backyard: Expanding opportunities for women leading in higher education in the Solomon Islands


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Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice

New Zealand Educational Administration and Leadership Society

Subject: Education


ISSN: 1178-8690





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VOLUME 30 , ISSUE 1 (June 2015) > List of articles

Shifting leadership out of the backyard: Expanding opportunities for women leading in higher education in the Solomon Islands

Susanne Maezama

Keywords : Women’s leadership; educational leadership; matrilineal culture; Solomon Islands; Santa Isabel; community leadership; belief; practice; Melanesia; higher education, embodiment

Citation Information : Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice. Volume 30, Issue 1, Pages 51-64, DOI:

License : (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Published Online: 21-April-2019



In the Solomon Islands, the paucity of women represented in educational leadership positions is an issue of social justice. This is an area of concern as, although women experience opportunities to practise leadership in a range of community contexts, their access to leadership in the field of education is restricted by a number of social and cultural discourses that marginalize women leaders. This qualitative research investigated the leadership experiences of ten women leaders located in one cultural context, the unique island of Santa Isabel in the Solomon Islands. Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were engaged to explore women’s leadership perceptions and experiences and how these ideas were realized in the way they practised leadership. Findings indicated that women’s perceptions of, and participation in, leadership was immersed in a cultural context which was founded on a belief of matrilineal leadership culture providing opportunities for women to have power and respect in community contexts but not necessarily organizational contexts. However, the findings also illustrated the challenges met by these women when they sought to extend their leadership practices beyond the home and their close communities, into organizations. Although a complex concept to negotiate, extending the cultural discourses of matrilineal leadership into educational leadership contexts may provide an alternative and supporting mechanism to enhance the representation of women in formal educational leadership positions in the Solomon Islands.

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