Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education


Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Associate Professor Jennifer Browne


This study focuses on reasons why so few females hold Head of Department positions in physical education in government secondary schools in Western Australia. Despite the almost equitable proportion of females and males teaching the subject, and the absence of Ministry of Education policy constraints on female promotion since 1972, females remain grossly underrepresented in leadership roles. In 1991, women held only five (7%) of the 70 substantive Head of Department appointments. Individual indepth interviews were used as the means of data collection to document female teachers' own accounts of their lives, career aspirations, and what they perceived to be the barriers and encouragements for promotion in physical education. A sample of female physical education teachers was selected and subdivided into three groups based on their years of teaching experience and occupancy of Head of Department positions. The intention of such a categorization was to obtain a broad spectrum of perceptions, and to facilitate comparison between the groups to indicate the varying effects that changing Ministry of Education policies and societal expectations have had on the promotional prospects and aspirations of female physical educators. The factors that emerged as constraints to the promotion of females were based primarily on stereotypic attitudes and expectations regarding gender-roles, and comprised both external systemic and internalized psychological barriers. It is proposed that many of the perceived deterrents are in fact created in the minds of female teachers to mask their lack of self-confidence and/or ambition. For this reason, social settings from studentship, through teacher education, to the teaching environment can play a crucial role in shaping and nurturing the career decisions and aspirations of female teachers. Finally, recommendations based on the findings are made to three key groups, namely, the Ministry of Education; teacher education institutions; and female physical education teachers. The suggested measures to address the problem focused on the need to do more than just change policy. Education regarding promotion; the identification and sponsorship of potential female candidates; the provision of networking and support groups; mentoring by female leaders; and a non-discriminatory selection process are among the essential strategies needed to stimulate and nurture the promotional aspirations of female physical education teachers.