Women Superintendents of Public Schools in the United States: Factors Contributing to Obtaining the Position
Richardson, Judith A.
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The problem. Women are not equally represented in the ranks of public sohool administration in the United States. Although they compose more than 60 percent of the teaching force, a very small percentage of women hold administrative positions. This percentage is declining. Why are there more men than women in administrative positions in education? Why is the number and percentage of women continuing to decline? Are women required to have personal and job related characteristics different from men who seek administrative positions? Are certain factors helping or hindering men and women in attaining top level management jobs such as the superintendency? Purpose of the Study. The purpose of the study is to discover what, if any, salient characteristics can be identified as important for women in gaining top level management positions in education, and to identify helping and hindering factors related to obtaining the position of superintendent as perceived by men and women currently serving in that capacity. Procedures. A nationwide sample of men and women superintendents responded to a thirty-five item questionnaire designed to gather data regarding the respondent's personal and job related characteristics, and their perceptions of twenty factors identified in the literature as influencinq the attainment of the position of superintendent. The descriptive data were accumulated to determine similarities and differences. The twenty factors were rated by respondents on a scale from (1) greatly hindered to (5) greatly helped. Means of the ratings of these factors by men and women were analyzed. Findings. Examination of the data dealing with personal and job related characteristics shows similarities and differences between men and women. Women had more experience and were appointed to their first position at an older age. They made less money than did men and served in smaller districts. About one third of the women were single and women had fewer ohildren. There was a significant correlation in the rankings of the helping and hindering factors by men and women. They ranked the factors about the same. Only four of the twenty factors were rated differently to a significant degree. These factors were: "Being a man or a woman," "High percent of males in administration," "Support of college and university placement services," and "School board attitudes, opinions, and philosophy." Conclusions. Men and women superintendents have similar personal and job related characteristics. Women differ in the areas of age at first appointment, years of work experience prior to first appointment, marital status, salary and size of district where employed. Men and women perceive their gender to be a factor in helping and hindering them in the attainment of the superintendency. Men felt it to be of help, women saw it as no help or a hinderance. No one factor stands out as the primary reason why the number and percentage of women administrators continues to decline. Recommendations. Other studies in this area should focus on the attitudes of school boards toward female applicants, college and university placement services, and numbers of women seeking superintendencies or qualified for but not serving as superintendents. If sex discrimination is a factor in the decline, it must be more clearly identified throuqh further study in this area.
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