This study seeks to understand how policy and practice enables or disables women's aspirations for secondary school leadership. The study focuses on women deputy principals and woman principal who have applied for principalship and details their accounts of the resonances and dissonances of policy and practice. This qualitative study uses a narrative design. The data collected from three female deputy principals, one of whom was acting as a principal and one a newly appointed principal at the time of the interviews. The main form of data collection was a series of interviews with each participant. The findings confirm that the policy environment is favourable for women, but in its implementation, there are factors that constrain the aspirations of women for secondary school leadership. Gender stereotypical perceptions of women by the school governing bodies and a patriarchal social context are seen as significant constraints for women seeking leadership positions. It was also evident that prevailing school leadership frequently works with school governing bodies to undermine and thwart the ambitions of female deputy principals and those unions rarely play a supportive role to potential women leaders.
Data is analysed using the Capabilities Approach. In this study, the Capabilities Approach suggests that environmental and social conversion factors seem to be obstacles affecting women's agency to achieve the desired outcome of becoming a principal.