In order to cultivate the qualitites of effective
leadership, women administrators must be challenged to behave
in ways beyond the bounds of the conventions of academia when
women are obtaining degrees and certification in educational
administration, and when women are working in the international
school setting, where they do not traditionally have the same
opportunities and levels of decision-making that men do.
- Throughout history women have been discriminated against in
the field of education as well as in other sectors of society
(Marshall & Kasten, 1994). The discrimination against women
in education has been coupled with constant reform movements during
the past 30 years. Educational administration is in the midst
of exciting challenges, with new models for leadership and new
policies supporting the inclusion of teachers in decision making
(Murray & Simmons, 1994). Women have historically had the
fewest employment opportunities in the area of K-12 educational
administration (Restine, 1993).
- The purpose for conducting this study was to examine the barriers
to upward mobility faced by female administrators working in American
and International Overseas Schools and how these women perceived
selected barriers. The sample consisted of 67 women employed in
administrative positions in International Schools in Latin America,
Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Included in the sample
were women administrators in attendance at the 1997 annual Association
for the Advancement of International Educators conference in Atlanta,
Georgia. These administrators typically held the title of principal,
director, or superintendent. The framework utilized included replication
of an earlier study of female administrators in Alabama (Crutcher,
- STATEMENT OF RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- The study set out to answer four research questions. These included
- 1. What barriers to upward mobility do female administrators
perceive in American and International Overseas Schools?
- 2. Are there significant differences in the perceived barriers
identified by female administrators in American and International
Overseas Schools based on geographic location?
- 3. What are the perceived differences in mobility patterns for
female administrators based on institutional and demographic variables
(career progression and method of promotion, job title, gender
of supervisor, and length of tenure)?
- 4. What are considered to be the most urgent professional development
and training needs for female administrators working in American
and International Overseas Schools?
- SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
- The need to increase the awareness of barriers which contribute
to the low incidence of women administrators is vital in achieving
gender equity in administrative positions in American and International
Overseas Schools. As Regan and Brooks (1995) asserted, women's
experience as school leaders has value, and the knowledge constructed
from this experience should be disseminated to men and women alike.
The current study attempted to provide the following:
- 1. Important information that could be used to develop and plan
in-service training in the personnel recruitment and selection
of American and International Overseas School administrators.
- 2. Gender values which would enable women to overcome barriers
and help dismantle barriers that presently exist.
- 3. A framework for scholars studying gender disparity in educational
- Margaret Mead believed that the ideal culture is one in which
there is a place for every human gift. By Mead's standards, the
contemporary culture is far from ideal for women, as many gifts
are unused and unappreciated (Pipher, 1994). The French author
Stendahl wrote, "All geniuses born women are lost to the
public good" (Cited in Pipher, p. 22). Many women who aspire
to be educational administrators are lost to the public good due
to the barriers that they encounter (Gilligan, 1993); the intent
of this study was to examine some of those barriers.
- THEORETICAL / CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK OF THE STUDY
- MacGregor and Touchton (1995) discussed the identification of
gender differences with respect to the language used to describe
power structures in educational settings. In addition to power
perspectives, findings from previous studies have included gender
viewpoints on empowerment, accountability, responsibility and
resources (Acker-Hocevar, Touchton, & Zenz, 1995). Brunner
(1993), in her study of highly successful superintendents, concluded
that females who wish to access power circuits needed to be culturally
bilingual, i.e. they needed to "speak the language of those
in the male circuits of power while remaining feminine" (p.
198). Thus, certain barriers exist which prevent female administrators
from having access to upward mobility.
- BRIEF REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
- Gender Issues
- An issue of continued interest and concern for those who work
in educational administration is that of the dearth of women employed
in leadership positions in educational settings (Bagenstos, 1987;
Edson, 1988; Hallinger & Murphy, 1991; Luebkemann & Clemens,
1994; Marietti & Stout, 1994; Mertz & McNeely, 1990; Mitchell,
1993; Montenegro, 1993; North, 1991; Pavan, 1989; Shakeshaft,
1989; Wesson & Grady, 1994). There is a need for well-qualified
women candidates who are ready and willing to pursue administrative
opportunities in the educational arena at all levels (Schmitt,
1995). As educational institutions make efforts to address this
need, questions arise, such as the identification of elements
which comprise preparation programs for prospective female administrators.
- During the first century and a half of the history of the U.S.,
little attention was given to the education of women either in
theory or in practice (Woody, 1966). Although teaching was identified
in the 20th century as a female profession, teachers have not
always been women. Records have indicated that in the late 18th
century, all teaching was done by men (Shakeshaft, 1989).
- The percentage of school superintendents who are women has been
gradually increasing, because of affirmative action efforts including
the passage of Title IX in 1972 and the Glass Ceiling Act of the
Civil Rights Act of 1991 (Pavan et al, 1996). Nevertheless, graduate
degree attainment by women does not necessarily guarantee proportionate
representation in administrative positions in education. By 1990
women earned 59% of the master's degrees and 51% of the doctoral
degrees in educational administration (Snyder, 1993). National
data compiled by Glass (1992) illustrated that 6.4% of the public
school system superintendents nationwide were women. The lack
of female school administrators cannot be blamed on women's unwillingness
to get the needed credentials or to make extensive job search
efforts (Pavan, 1988; 1989).
- According to Schuster (1993), the lives of women have been affected
significantly by gender role socialization and gender discrimination.
Her studies revealed that a consciousness of the struggle for
gender equity has shaped the expectations and influenced the well-being
of educated American women. Schuster's studies suggested that
even young women still feel somewhat limited in their choices
and perhaps even disenfranchised by a society that does not provide
structures for women to comfortably sustain multiple career and
family roles during early adult years.
- Openness and willingness for self-examination, and a lifelong
commitment toward personal mastery are critical for anyone who
takes up the challenge of being an educational administrator (Carrow-Moffett,
1993). With the advent of any change, individuals are required
to learn something new and "unlearn" something old;
it is the unlearning process that is at the root of most resistance
to change (Schein, 1969). To become effective educational administrators,
educators must first challenge themselves to explore and develop
their awareness of the barriers and enhancers that they bring
to the educational process (Carrow-Moffett, 1993).
- International Schools and International Education
- The total number of American and International schools worldwide
is 557 (International Schools Services, 1995). The history of
"international schools" and of "international education"
is in each case a relatively recent one in formal terms, with
the last 50 years having seen particularly rapid developments
resulting in substantial diversity with respect to both areas
(Hayden & Thompson, 1995). In many cases international schools
and international education are clearly linked in the perception
of those responsible for education provision, and in the expectations
of many parents subscribing to such institutions. Matthews (1989),
in discussing the nature of international schools, made only a
small number of references to their relationship to international
education and no attempt to define the latter. Belle-Isle (1986)
challenged the assumption that international education is de facto
to what takes place in international schools. Gellar (1981) pointed
out that as the number of "overseas" schools worldwide
grew, for want of a better one, the term "International Education"
gained currency. Cole-Baker (in Hill 1994) believed that both
international and national schools may offer an international
education, which he saw as a being essentially about intercultural
- A major role of the administrator in overseas schools falls
into the realm of "public relations," but does not entail
"selling" the school to its American customers (Allen,
1990). Instead, the focus is on selling America to the citizens
of the host country. Depending on the part of the world in which
the school is located, the selling job can be either frustrating
or personally satisfying, with the odds leaning heavily toward
the latter (Allen, 1990).
- Asbury (1993) conducted a study to examine recent trends in
Alabama public schools regarding the qualifying and hiring of
females for secondary school principalships. The results of Asbury's
study revealed that females perceived a significantly higher degree
of discrimination in the hiring practices of their districts than
did their male counterparts. According to Asbury, the top three
inhibiting factors listed by females for not holding secondary
principalships were lack of interest, belief that male supervisors
think that females should not hold secondary principalships, and
lack of experience in leadership activities. Based on the findings
of his study, Asbury recommended that further research of this
nature be conducted on a regional and national basis to determine
trends at those levels. With further study on both a national
and an international basis, perhaps the cultural influences on
institutional behavior could be determined.
- Jankowicz (1994) stressed the limitations and dangers of an
oversimplified model of cultural change processes. The origins
of the concept of experiential learning and teaching have been
traced to the work of John Dewey in the middle of this century,
and later to the student centered philosophy of Carl Rogers. More
specifically, the founder is usually thought of as being David
Kolb, who in 1974 produced his "Cycle of Learning."
This has been adapted and developed by Roberts and Woodhead (1995)
in their training course for effective school administration in
Lithuania. Burnard (1988) produced a means of demonstrating how
practical experience can be used as the basis for planning theoretical
blocks of study.
- The population studied was identified as women administrators
employed by American and International Overseas Schools located
outside of the United States and Canada. According to Gall, Borg,
and Gall (1996), educational researchers rarely can investigate
the entire population of individuals who interest them. Instead,
they must select a sample of individuals to study. A properly
executed sample survey can measure individual views in a representative
way (Fowler, 1974). The sample for this study was comprised of
women administrators attending the annual meeting of the 1997
Association for the Advancement of International Education in
Atlanta, Georgia. The sample was selected on the basis of the
willingness of participants to respond to the survey. An additional
mailing of surveys was done to all women administrators in American
and International Schools listed in the International Schools
Service and Association for the Advancement of International Education
directories. Where applicable, surveys were sent via surface or
air mail, e-mail, or facsimile transmission.
- The research paradigm selected for use in this study was survey
research. Babbie (1973) reported that "survey data facilitate
the careful implementation of logical understanding" (p.
46). According to Settle and Alreck (1986), perceptions are what
really count; they facilitate the discovery of trends and the
prediction of where things are going in the next few years. Thus,
the survey was designed with the intent of measuring female administrators'
perceptions of barriers to upward mobility for women working in
American and International Overseas Schools. Additionally, an
open-ended question was incorporated into the instrument as a
result of McCormack's (1995) finding that open-ended questions
enhance questionnaire responses.
- Descriptive statistics are mathematical techniques for organizing
and summarizing a set of numerical data (Gall, Borg, & Gall,
1996). The design of this study was to provide empirical evidence
to test the validity of perceptions of barriers to upward mobility
faced by women administrators employed in American and International
Overseas Schools. Findings based on data collected from the sample
are generalized only to that population (Gall, Borg & Gall,
1996). Thus, the generalization of knowledge claims indicated
by this study beyond the defined population will be considered
speculative until supported by evidence from new studies involving
- The Likert-type method of summated ratings, as described in
Research in Education by John W. Best and James V. Kahn (1989)
was chosen to measure the perceptions of the subjects on a questionnaire.
The Likert-type method was used as a response mode to measure
the perceived values each respondent assigned to individual barrier
statements listed on the instrument. The items of the questionnaire
were developed by selecting those barriers which had the highest
frequency in related literature.
- The questionnaire was designed to determine the perceptions
of female administrators regarding the barriers affecting the
upward mobility of women administrators in International Schools.
In a pilot study (Berman, 1996), the questionnaire was tested
for validity and reliability. The Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient
for the total instrument was 0.91, and this evidence strongly
supported the reliability of the instrument as a whole. Factor
analysis and item-to-total correlations have been presented as
evidence of construct validity only. Both reliability and validity
provide evidence of strong psychometric properties (Gregory, 1996).
- The structure of factor analysis loaded the items into four
factors: support systems barriers, social barriers, self-imposed
barriers, and cultural barriers. The first two factors, support
systems and social barriers, had Cronbach coefficient alphas of
0.92 and 0.83 respectively. Both of these conveyed strong reliability
for these factors. Factors 3 and 4, self-imposed barriers and
cultural barriers, had Cronbach coefficient alphas of less than
0.70, which is reasonable for small samples (Mickler, Chissom,
& McLean, 1989).
- Data Collection
- A total of 230 surveys were distributed via mail, e-mail, fax,
and at the annual women administrators' breakfast meeting at the
1997 Association for the Advancement of International Education
in Atlanta, Georgia. A total of 146 responses were received, comprising
a response rate of 63%. Of the responses, 67 were usable, which
accounts for 30% of the population of female administrators in
international schools, and 46% of the respondents. The reminder
notifications were sent via e-mail as a follow-up to the original
distribution of surveys. The differences in the number of surveys
received and the number of surveys used in the analysis can be
accounted for by a strict adherence to criteria regarding the
respondents. In order for a survey to be considered usable, the
respondent had to be female, employed in an administrative position
in an international school, and living outside of the United States.
If the respondent did not meet all three requirements, the survey
was considered unusable.
- The instrument contained 7 demographic items, 40 barrier statements
followed by a choice of 5 possible responses, and an open-ended
question. Participants' responses to the barrier statements were
scored on a 5-point modified Likert-type scale, ranging from Strongly
Disagree (1) to Strongly Agree (5).
- In order to answer the first research question concerning the
barriers to upward mobility faced by female administrators in
American and International Overseas Schools, responses to survey
questions 1-40 in Section II of the questionnaire were analyzed
in terms of mean, median, and mode in descending order. Higher
levels of agreement indicated a more frequent occurrence of a
- The statements with which the respondents most frequently agreed
were: mentors can help women's careers by giving their protegees
career direction, support, career aspiration and by assisting
with career change (Mean 4.409, Standard Deviation .607); the
key to resisting oppression is a strong self-concept (Mean 4.154,
Standard Deviation .795); women build self-esteem and confidence
by associating with the mentor (Mean 4.030), Standard Deviation
.859); women frequently do not receive salary, title, and status
to match responsibilities (Mean 3.923, Standard Deviation 1.122);
and beliefs that male administrators best handle certain kinds
of positions are restrictive (Mean 3.848, Standard Deviation .949).
- The statements with which the respondents had the strongest
degree of disagreement were: women bring psychological turmoil
to the job (Mean 1.697, Standard Deviation .877); women find psychological
separation and alienation from the rest of the group too much
to bear (Mean 2.242, Standard Deviation 1.039); women have the
educational preparation but lack the necessary experience to hold
administrative positions (Mean 2.379, Standard Deviation 1.092);
faculty members treat male administrators more professionally
than female administrators (Mean 2.470, Standard Deviation 1.166);
and male co-workers extend a lack of professionalism to women
(Mean 2.470, Standard Deviation 1.056).
- The second research question concerned differences in the barriers
identified by female administrators in American and International
Overseas Schools based on geographic location. In order to answer
this question, the responses to Item 1 in Section I of the survey
were included in the Analysis of Variance on all items in Section
II. The Type I error rate was maintained at a pre-established
alpha level of .05 for the entire set of comparisons.
- The respondents employed in schools in Asia agreed more strongly
with the statement concerning the greatest barrier for women as
being role prejudice than did the respondents employed in schools
in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East (F probability
of .0352). There were no other statistically significant differences
among the respondents based on country of employment for the other
- The third research question pertained to the differences in
mobility patterns for female administrators based on the following
institutional and demographic variables: career progression and
method of promotion; job title; gender of supervisor; and length
of tenure. In order to answer this question, data were analyzed
for items 1-40 on Section II and in Section I items 4-6 (career
progression and method of promotion), item 2 (job title), item
7 (gender of supervisor), and item 3 (length of tenure). For the
comparison, the one-way Analysis of Variance procedure was used.
- The participants who had been promoted from outside the school
responded with a significantly higher (Tukey-HSD test with significance
level .050) level of agreement than did their counterparts who
had been promoted from within the school on four items. First,
the respondents promoted from outside the school maintained a
higher level of agreement (Mean 4.0435) with the statement concerning
the notion that women experience external barriers to promotion
despite the declaration of equal opportunity employment than did
the respondents who had been promoted from within the school (Mean
3.4250). Second, the respondents promoted from outside the school
maintained a signficantly higher level of agreement (Mean 4.1304)
with the item related to the idea that women often spend the early
part of their marriages promoting their husbands' careers than
did the group promoted from within the school (Mean 3.1538). Third,
the respondents promoted from outside the school had a significantly
higher level of agreement with the statement positing that school
counselors fail to identify future positions in administration
as desirable to females (Mean 3.4783) than did the participants
promoted from within the school (Mean 2.79). Finally, the respondents
promoted from outside the school had a significantly higher level
of agreement with the statement concerning the idea that the key
to resisting oppression is a strong self-concept (Mean 4.4783)
than did the respondents promoted from within the school (Mean
- The present position title of the respondents did not significantly
influence their responses. There were no significant differences
among the respondents on any of the items based on their present
- The item asking if women should be allowed to progress by cooperation
more than competition received a stronger degree of disagreement
from the respondents whose previous positions had been as coordinators
and department chairs (Mean 2.8571) and counselors (Mean 1.333)
than did the respondents whose previous positions had been teachers
(Mean 3.2703), teaching principals (Mean 4.000), non-school related
(Mean 3.7500), and other administrative positions (Mean 3.3636).
- The respondents whose immediate supervisor was male had a significantly
higher level of agreement with the item stating that belief systems
create barriers for career advancement for women (Mean 3.5714)
than the respondents whose immediate supervisor was female (Mean
- The item stating that women should be allowed to progress by
cooperation more than competition received a significantly higher
agreement response from the participants employed in their present
position for 6-10 years (mean 3.5333) and those employed in their
present position for 11-15 years (Mean 3.6250) than it did from
the participants employed in their position from 0-5 years (mean
3.1026) and those employed in their present position for 16 years
or more (Mean 1.5000).
- The answer to the question regarding the most urgent professional
development and training needs for female administrators working
in American and International Overseas Schools came from responses
to an open-ended question at the end of the survey. Information
from this open-ended question offered data that might not have
been found in the responses to the survey items.
- The professional development and training needs described by
the respondents included the following: on-the-job training; mentoring;
having opportunities to meet with other administrators to discuss
issues; leadership training; and developing self-confidence.
- First, the professional development and training needs for female
administrators working in American and International Overseas
Schools identified by the respondents were consistent with their
level of agreement with the barrier statements on the survey.
The statement which received the highest mean score was the following:
mentors can help women's careers by giving their protegees career
direction, support, career aspiration and by assisting with career
change. In addition, by responding to an open-ended question regarding
professional development and training needs, the respondents discussed
the importance of mentoring for female administrators in international
schools with greater frequency than any other item.
- The second conclusion inferred from the results of the analysis
in this study was the importance of a strong self-concept in resisting
oppression. The statement with which the respondents had the second
highest mean was that the key to resisting oppression is a strong
- The next conclusion revealed from the results of the study was
that the respondents perceived that women do not bring psychological
turmoil to the job. The statement with which the respondents had
the strongest degree of disagreement was that women bring psychological
turmoil to the job. The fact that the aforementioned statement
was the only statement on the survey with which the respondents
tended to strongly disagree is significant.
- The fourth conclusion drawn from the results of the study was
that geographic location did not appear to have a significant
influence on the participants' perceptions of barriers to upward
mobility. The respondents employed in schools in Asia agreed much
more strongly with the statement concerning the greatest barrier
for women as being role prejudice than did the respondents employed
in schools in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.
There were no other statistically significant differences among
the respondents based on country of employment for the other barrier
- The final conclusion drawn from the results of the study is
that only one of the most frequently reported barriers to upward
mobility for the respondents was consistent with Crutcher's (1992)
findings from her examination of the barriers which affected the
upward mobility of women administrators in the State of Alabama.
Crutcher concluded that the most frequently reported barriers
to upward mobility for all categories of female principals in
her study were as follows:
- 1. Women believe that they will be considered unfeminine if
they confront conflict assertively.
- 2. A major barrier to a woman's career is her need to give primary
attention to her family until the youngest child is in school.
- 3. Women do not have a "good-old-girl" network.
- 4. Women find psychological separation and alienation from the
rest of the group difficult to experience.
- 5. Women build self-esteem and confidence by associating with
- For Practice
- The first proposal offered is to incorporate a structured mentoring
component in American and International Overseas Schools for female
administrators. Regardless of geographic location, career progression,
method of promotion, job title, gender of supervisor, and length
of tenure, the results indicated agreement among the participants
that mentors can help women's careers by giving their protegees
career direction, support, career aspiration and by assisting
with career change, and that women build self-esteem and confidence
by associating with the mentor.
- Secondly, programs aimed at developing on-the-job training practices
for female administrators in international schools would benefit
from a strong experiential component. In order to cultivate the
qualities of effective leadership, women administrators must be
challenged to behave in ways beyond the bounds of the conventions
of academia when women are obtaining degrees and certification
in educational administration, and when women are working in the
international school setting, where they do not traditionally
have the same opportunities and levels of decision-making that
men do. Only then will the experience of working in an international
school serve females who aspire to senior-level administrative
positions (i.e. directors, superintendents, etc.) to develop and
try the leadership skills necessary for their future career development.
The high standards expected of international school administrators
would then be judged on a more equitable basis according to specific
actions of men and women alike.
- The final recommendation regarding improvements in future practices
would be to have opportunities to meet with other administrators
to discuss issues. This would ensure that female administrators
are able to utilize the experience and expertise of their peers
to develop as professionals. An ongoing discussion, both through
technological assistance and in person, forms a foundation for
mentoring, leadership development, and professional and personal
For Further Study
- The first recommendation for future research is to appraise
the development of leadership potential of women administrators
in international schools over three to five-year time period.
Longitudinal studies aimed at assessing how female administrators'
perceptions of barriers to upward mobility in international schools
may develop or change during a four-year period of time, for example,
would greatly add to the existing body of knowledge.
- The next recommendation is to investigate whether any relationships
or correlations exist between different types of women administrators
in international schools relative to their success in moving upward
in their professional careers. The results of this study found
that female administrators working in international schools in
Asia tended to have a significantly higher level of agreement
with the item stating that role prejudice is the greatest barrier
faced by women than the participants working in Africa, Europe,
Latin America, and the Middle East. Ascertaining whether this
perception affects the upward mobility of women in that particular
region would expand existing insights into the characteristics
of female administrators.
- The third recommendation is to investigate the level of development
of perceptions of barriers to upward mobility among female administrators
in international schools occupying top-level positions, those
occupying entry-level administrative positions (i.e. assistant
principals), and those in non-administrative positions. No effort
was made in this study to distinguish between female administrators
and non-administrators in international schools.
- The final recommendation is to investigate the variables above
and beyond formal instruction responsible for contributing to
the advancement and upward mobility of women in educational careers.
Are there other quality indicators that can be used to assess
the perceptions of barriers to upward mobility by female administrators
in international schools? The results of this study indicated
a significant difference between the perceptions of barriers by
participants who had been promoted from outside the school and
those who had been promoted from within the school.
- Major barriers to upward mobility facing female administrators
are not always related to inequitable salaries. The findings of
this study suggest that female administrators working in international
schools have the perception that mentors can help women's careers
by giving their protegees career direction, support, career aspiration
and by assisting with career change. Attempts to discover factors
that give rise to the development of perceptions of barriers to
upward mobility by female administrators in international schools
would prove useful to researchers, international educators, school
administrators, and women.
- Three prominent sites of inquiry include the mentoring process,
self-concept within the interpersonal environment, and hiring
practices. Do natural processes occur during educational administration
training programs that reinforce leadership practices that determine
the future success of female administrators in international schools?
Investigating the role played by self-concept in interpersonal
dynamics of educators may uncover useful data on peer group influences
that foster leadership development in women administrators in
international schools. The selection criteria for the hiring of
administrators in international schools deserves scrutiny. Are
efforts consciously made to recruit female administrators or is
there a proclivity for international school boards to maintain
the status quo by awarding top-level administrative positions
to men more often than to women? Variables thus identified may
also provide a significant determinate for the selection of women
as administrators in international schools in the future.
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Dr. Barbara Berman is a secondary principal at
the ColegioInteramericano in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
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