Term of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Michael D. Richardson

Committee Member 1

T. C. Chan

Committee Member 2

Fred Page

Committee Member 3

Catherine Wooddy


The purpose of this study was to describe the personal and professional backgrounds of the female public high school principals in Georgia. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were employed to conduct the research. A demographic questionnaire, which included items addressing personal, educational, and professional background information, was mailed to all of the identified female public high school principals for the 2000--2001 school year. The quantitative data analysis resulting from the demographic questionnaire is presented in the narrative form with corresponding tables. The final item on the questionnaire asked whether or not the respondent would participate in a long, in-depth interview with the researcher with the assurance that the identities of the participants would remain confidential. Of the 56 female high school principals, 42 completed and returned the demographic questionnaire. Twenty-two of the principals who responded to the questionnaire expressed a willingness to participate in the interview portion ofthe study. Eight interviewees were selected through stratified, purposefiil sampling. In-depth interviews were conducted by the researcher with the eight principals to explore their personal and professional backgrounds using the qualitative technique of the long interview. The qualitative data from the taped interviews were analyzed with the QSR NUD.1ST 5 program, which aided the researcher in categorizing the interviewees' responses to the interview questions and, more importantly, identifying recurring themes, related ideas, and the responses pertinent to the purpose of the study. The intent of the analysis of the qualitative data was to utilize direct quotes to maintain the integrity of the richness and thickness of the female principals' "lived experiences" in their own words. The findings of the quantitative portion of the study yielded an aggregate description of Georgia's female public high school principal. She was 50 years old or older, married for the first time, and had at least one child. Her most popular undergraduate major was English, and the highest degree earned was a Specialist degree in educational administration. She had been a principal, on average, for 4.6 years and had served in some other capacity in education for 19 years before becoming principal. The qualitative portion of this study explored the principals' personal background, career paths, career barriers, mentoring experiences, and leadership traits. The women who participated in the study were strongly encouraged by their parents to attend college, however, becoming a teacher was not the first career choice of over half of them. The majority did not establish long-term goals early in their careers. All of the women had faced career barriers, including gender discrimination, and resistance to working for a female from male teachers, coaches, athletic directors, and assistant principals. In addition, all of the interviewees believed that mentoring aspirants, male or female, was essential for maintaining effective school systems. The prevalent leadership trait the female principals ascribed to themselves was the empowerment oftheir start" through the use of shared decision-making. The results of this study are particularly pertinent to the female who is aspiring to become a high school principal and to educational leadership programs who help to prepare their female candidates for key leadership positions in the field of education.


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