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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership for Diverse Learning Communities




School of Education and Human Services


Public schools are faced with a shortage of women superintendents in the United States. Although women dominate the teaching profession and outnumber men in educational leadership and doctoral programs in education, there is a disproportionate number of men compared to women leading the nation’s public schools. Using feminist theory and social capital theory, this qualitative phenomenological study examined how nine women superintendents perceived gender-based obstacles, as well as the support of social capital during their ascent to the superintendency. The findings revealed that women in the study faced sex-role stereotyping and gender bias from men and women as they aspired to leadership. They also revealed that social capital career supports of mentoring, formal and informal networks, and relationship building were necessary to advance to the superintendency. There was also evidence that professional preparedness through their expertise in curriculum and instruction, additional skill development, and transformational leadership styles were additional factors that supported their ascent into district leadership. Women of color in the study displayed resiliency, despite the image of the superintendent being stereotypically that of a White male. The findings of this study can lead to professional--development opportunities for women by highlighting the voices of women superintendents who successfully navigated the pathway to district leadership. The findings have implications for increased gender-based sensitivity training for school boards, hiring committees, and leadership--preparation programs. In addition, a reimagined university leadership program should include additional skills-based instruction, partnerships with school districts, and sponsorships for women aspiring to the superintendency. Representation matters: only when people share leadership equally will women be able to achieve equitable access to the superintendent position.

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