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Discovering Barriers to Women in School Leadership

A Women Leaders Research Toolkit developed with UNICEF Innocenti

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Research tells us that school leaders who are women create better teaching and learning environments and drive better outcomes for students.

  • Higher learning outcomes

  • Fewer gender disparities

  • Lower dropout rates

  • Better primary school outcomes in reading in mathematics


Yet, female school leaders are largely underrepresented, especially in the Global South. There is little evidence on the systemic and personal barriers that contribute to this underrepresentation and, more importantly, on the levers that could help women access and succeed in school leadership. To help address this, GSL and UNICEF Innocenti are partnering to develop a toolkit to better understand barriers to women's school leadership.

What we aim to do

The purpose of this project is to create a comprehensive Women Leaders Research Toolkit focusing on gender disparities that can be adapted across countries. The project will also result in a deeper understanding of barriers and enablers that female school leaders encounter, which will provide policymakers, education officials, and other key stakeholders with valuable information for policy action.

The toolkit aims specifically to:

  • Examine the scope of women’s representation as school leaders

  • Gain an in-depth understanding of school leaders’ trajectories

  • Propose evidence-based policy actions to strengthen the representation of women as school leaders

  • Elevate the voices of women school leaders regarding their experiences

How we do it

The toolkit is being piloted in Ghana and implemented in collaboration with the Ghanaian Ministry of Education and UNICEF Ghana.


The toolkit consists of three aspects:

  • a survey of all the district directors

  • a nationally representative phone survey of school leaders

  • an in-depth qualitative study of school leaders, teachers, and parents.


We hope that this research will inform better policy in Ghana to support women school leaders. The final toolkit will have resources that can be used to support this research in other countries.

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