Term of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Brenda Marina

Committee Member 1

Sonya Shepherd

Committee Member 2

Simone Charles


Although women actively seek advancement and constitute the majority of teachers in American public schools, they do not occupy many of the decision-making, administrative, or superintendency positions in education. This paper presents a perspective on the problem of women's lack of progression from entry-level positions of leadership through superintendency. A qualitative, phenomenological methodology is used to illuminate the lived experiences of 16 women who were active in the position of American public school superintendent during the 2008-2009 academic year. The superintendents were of varied age, race, and family/marital status. The researcher describes the voice of women superintendents and their personal experiences through semi-structured, in-depth interviews. The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experiences of female superintendents who gave descriptions of their work lives, including their resilience and the obstacles they faced, in order to determine how female superintendents in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia were successful in obtaining their positions. This was accomplished through a series of interviews in three southeastern states with female superintendents who were either African American or Caucasian. Barriers to leadership opportunities for women and resilience factors were examined to help describe some of the reasons women continue to be underrepresented in the role of superintendent nationally and in these three southeastern states. Although gender discrimination affected most of the superintendents at some point, findings indicate that the most frequently stated barrier was conflicting career and family demands, and the most frequently stated strategy for success was networking. The interviews yielded insight into the actual experiences and commonalities of the females in superintendent positions. All female superintendents interviewed reported high job satisfaction, and all except one agreed they would make the decision to seek leadership and superintendency again. Each of the superintendents expressed having strong support systems; all 16 had mentors who encouraged them along the way, and they stated those relationships were vital for success at each stage of their career. Most stated that collaboration was the most effective style of leadership unless the situation required an authoritarian approach. Other important leadership characteristics included communication, vision, problem-solving, critical thinking and risk taking.

Research Data and Supplementary Material