Female teachers who aspire to lead schools are still thwarted by the "glass ceiling" and those who do gain headships say their leadership qualities and professional authority are constantly questioned and challenged, a report says.
Researchers at the University of Manchester found that women are still held back by gender discrimination in the appointments procedure, and are put off going for top jobs because of workload and a lack of flexible working.
They also expressed concern that women are less well supported in terms of career progression.
The study, of more than 1,000 teachers and heads, found that 40 per cent thought it was easier to become a primary headteacher if you were a man; only 10 per cent believed it was easier if you were a woman. More than half of respondents thought men were advantaged in appointments to secondary headships.
The findings also indicated a reticence among women to go for the top job. Only 53 per cent of women who completed the National Professional Qualification for Headship aspired to lead, compared with 65 per cent of men.
However, the report suggested that male leaders favoured female deputies. The questionnaire found in primaries with female heads, 75 per cent of deputies were female, but in schools lead by men, 90 per cent of deputies were.
The report, entitled No Job for a Woman? The Impact of Gender in School Leadership, was carried out for teaching union the NASUWT.
Its general secretary, Chris Keates, said: "Too many women school leaders are confined to jobs in smaller schools, on lower salaries and concentrated in particular areas. More needs to be done by the coalition Government and other relevant national bodies to redress these imbalances."