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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An exploratory study of the ascendancy of women to the position of K–12 superintendent
by Hanson, Karen M., Ph.D., California State University, Fullerton, 2011, 134; 3438254
Abstract (Summary)

Despite earning over half of the doctoral degrees in education, women are underrepresented in the position of K-12 superintendent. In 2000, although 72% of all classroom teachers were female, only 14% of all superintendents in the United States were women. Research indicates that women experience barriers in their ascendancy to superintendent. This study explored the experiences of 11 women who work in one county in a western state for which the percentage of female superintendents is unusually high, at 41%. Of interest was whether these women experienced barriers during their ascendancy and, if so, the strategies used to overcome them. Additionally, commonalities in the career pathways of the participants were determined.

Data were collected using open-ended interviews and documentation. The 11 female superintendents represented all female superintendents in the county. Their responses indicated that none of the women believed that they had experienced any gender-based barriers that significantly impeded their ascension to the superintendency. Unlike what is seen in previous research, 100% of the women stated that they had experienced both active participation in professional networks and received valuable mentoring, often from the superintendent whom they succeeded. Their responses indicated that most common personal attributes for success include hard work, drive, determination, and commitment. Each woman noted that having knowledge and expertise, perceptive abilities, problem-solving skills, and being a person of strong moral character also were important to a successful ascendancy. The preferred leadership was a communal, participatory one, and all considered themselves skilled team-builders. Commonalities in the career pathways of these women included all having been classroom teachers and nearly all having been principals and/or an assistant superintendent before rising to the position of superintendent.

The recommendations to potential aspirants include encouraging women to pursue the superintendency without fear of barriers as well as to participate in professional organizations and to seek mentorship opportunities. Finally, certain personal motivation factors and the use of a collaborative leadership style are recommended as important to attaining the position of K-12 superintendent.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Barton, Leigh
School: California State University, Fullerton
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, Womens studies, School administration
Keywords: Ascendancy, Educational leadership, Female superintendent, Leadership, Superintendent, Women administrators, Women in leadership
Publication Number: 3438254
ISBN: 978-1-124-40778-4
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