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Principal sex change;In Brief;Research Focus

America has been like the rest of the world when it comes to appointing high school principals. In other words, it is invariably the men who have got the jobs.

At present, men hold 83 per cent of the principals' posts, and some researchers have predicted that this proportion is unlikely to change radically because "similar sex" applicants tend to earn a higher evaluation. New research, however, suggests that the glass ceiling may finally be cracking.

Susan Reis, Phillip Young and James Jury asked 150 principals to rate the suitability of applicants for a vice-principal's post and discovered that there was a slight sex bias - in favour of women.

"Approximately 4 per cent of the variation in female and male principals' ratings of candidate qualifications are due to the sex of the hypothetical administrator candidate," the researchers said.

They speculate that schools may now be seeking more women administrators because they are conscious of the present gender imbalance. But they add that the fear of being sued for pursuing discriminatory hiring policies may also have concentrated principals' minds.

Contact: Professor Susan Reis, Penn State University, tel. (001) 814 865 1487

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