Paving their own way: Experiences of female high school band directors
This qualitative study examines how female band directors experience the complexities of working in the traditionally masculine profession of secondary instrumental music education. This research focuses on the ways that female high school band directors perceive and engage with issues of isolation, discrimination, and stereotyping in secondary instrumental music education. The study also addresses how perceptions of gender roles have influenced female high school band directors' teaching identities.
Participants were eleven female high school band directors with varying levels of teaching experience. Each participant participated in two, semi-structured interviews which focused on gender in relation to isolation, discrimination, stereotyping, and teacher identity in secondary instrumental music.
While each participant's experiences with gender in the field of secondary instrumental music education was unique, several common themes emerged. To succeed in the profession, participants often developed and projected a powerful, tough, assertive, competitive and confident persona. These qualities were projected in the classroom and in the larger professional community. Some participants felt that organization, sensitivity to student needs, problem solving skills, and a nurturing personality were qualities unique to female band directors. Other participants rejected the idea that gender had any affect on their teaching.
Participants agreed that female high school band directors are underrepresented. The masculine history of the profession, the struggle to balance work and family, and the belief that administrators may question a woman's ability to handle the job were cited as reasons for this disparity. Some participants felt that gendered stereotypes lead to hiring discrimination, professional isolation, and sexually inappropriate treatment within the field. Participants stated that women must work harder than their male counterparts to earn professional respect.
The seemingly inherent masculine nature of the profession, discrete hiring discrimination, gendered treatment, and the desire to raise children are factors that continue to present professional and personal challenges for female high school band directors. Increasingly transparent hiring practices in combination with increased visibility of female role models, guest conductors, and festival adjudicators may allow secondary instrumental music education to become a more gender equitable profession.
0522: Music education
0733: Gender studies