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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Listening to the Voices of Retired Female Superintendents
by Petruno-Goguen, Ruthann, Ed.D., New England College, 2019, 278; 13883064
Abstract (Summary)

History has created many societal structures, expectations, and barriers that keep women in a particular place where their voices are expected to remain silent and passive (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger & Tarule, 1997; Blount, 1998; Gilligan, 1982). According to Gilligan (1982), women have difficulty listening to their inner voices and often choose to be silent because they prioritize maintaining relationships with others rather than asserting their opinions. The problem is we do not know how female superintendents are able to exert and develop their own voices as executive leaders when they are faced with societal expectations and other barriers expecting them to be silent or submissive. The question is: How do female superintendents explain to themselves and to others how their experiences impact the development of their own voices? The purpose of this qualitative narrative study was to explore the stories of seven retired female superintendents and to discover how retired female superintendents describe how they used their voices during critical moments in their careers. Critical moments are defined as times when female superintendents made conscious decisions about how best to use their voices to be heard. Participants were asked to engage in a process of self-reflection by looking back at their past-selves, their lived experiences, and pre-existing photographs of themselves to share their present-day thoughts on the development of their own voice. This research had two main objectives: to hear the voices of retired female superintendents and to create an opportunity for women to share their perspectives of their experiences in a role traditionally held by men. Critical and feminist theory framed this qualitative narrative study. The research methods included a pilot study, interviews, journaling, surveys, and data collection with seven participants. The exploration of the retired female superintendent's perspective of her critical moments and voice has the potential to contribute to a greater understanding of what types of supports, training, and resources women need to be successful in the superintendent role. Eleven themes emerged from the stories of seven retired female superintendents to detail how female superintendents use their voices. The overall results of this study indicate that retired female superintendents use their voices to advocate for themselves and others, and they are courageous activists and reflective practitioners. This research study contradicts the belief that female leaders who demonstrate caring and collaborative personality traits are viewed as weak and ineffective (Young & Skrla, 2003) and that women have difficulty listening to their inner voices and often choose to be silent because they prioritize maintaining relationships with others rather than asserting their opinions (Gilligan, 1982).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nitschke-Shaw, Debra
Commitee: Gilmour, Suzanne, Nelso, Laura
School: New England College
Department: Doctorate of Education
School Location: United States -- New Hampshire
Source: DAI-A 80/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, Womens studies, Educational administration
Keywords: Educational leadership, Feminist theory, Voices, Women superintendents
Publication Number: 13883064
ISBN: 978-1-392-16072-5
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