More women are being appointed to the top management jobs in further education as colleges leave behind their old craft-oriented images.
A paper presented to the British Educational Research Association conference in Belfast charts the growth in numbers and influence of women in FE, particularly since incorporation.
The number of women principals has risen from 13 in 1990 to 81 in 1997. "Many of the older principals had joined FE when it was largely craft-oriented and had worked their way up from being engineers or builders," says the paper by Pam Cole, of Sheffield University's education department. "As British industry has changed, so has FE. In the eighties many of the new or expanding courses were in areas which traditionally attract women and so there was an influx of women staff (and students)."
Incorporation, when colleges became independent in 1993, also had an effect. In the first four years of incorporation about one-third of principals left colleges, mainly for retirement.
A survey by the Association of Colleges based on 372 principals, (67 women, 305 men) showed there was a greater percentage of the total number of female principals in the 40-44 age group. Only eight women were over the age of 55 and none over 60. This compared to 73 men over 55, of whom 60 were over 60.
"This suggests that in the near future more male than female principals are likely to leave through retirement providing vacancies of which, on current trends, some will be filled by women," says the paper.
Below principal level, women outnumber men in both full and part-time posts. One principal said his college had recently seriously discussed that in future job advertisements they should add: "applications from men will be particularly welcome".