Race, Gender, and Emotion Work among School Principals

Simone Ispa-Landa*, Sara Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Researchers have highlighted how gendered associations of femininity with emotional labor can complicate professional women’s attempts to exercise managerial authority. However, current understandings of how race and gender intersect in professional women’s emotional labor remain limited. We draw on 132 interviews from eight white women and 13 women of color who are novice principals. White women began the principalship wanting to establish themselves as emotionally supportive leaders who were open to others’ influence. They viewed emotional labor as existing in tension with showing authority as a leader. Over time, however, most white women reported adopting more directive practices. By contrast, women of color reported beginning the principalship with a more directive, take-charge leadership style. They viewed emotional labor and authority as part of a blended project and did not talk about these two aspects of leadership as existing in tension. Over time, their self-reported leadership style changed little. We analyze our findings in light of recent theorizing about gender and intersectionality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-409
Number of pages23
JournalGender and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • emotion work
  • gender
  • gender theory
  • intersectionality
  • leadership
  • principals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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