In the midst of thes school evolution, vacancies
for principal and superintendent positions are increasing at a time
when more women than men are enrolled in preparation programs for
Changes taking place in today's schools open a window
of opportunity for more women to move into educational administration.
Education reform brings a new governance structure, modifies leadership
practices, and emphasizes accountability for results. In the midst
of this school evolution, vacancies for principal and superintendent
positions are increasing at a time when more women than men are
enrolled in preparation programs for educational administration.
This article examines conditions favorable for advancing gender
equity and proposes that now is the time to reactivate and energize
Changes and Challenges
A number of conditions that currently exist affect
educational administration and have potential for redirecting
hiring practices for these positions. A convergence of school
reform, supply and demand for administrators, and societal changes
enhances opportunities for more women to become school administrators.
Six specific circumstances are addressed in this discussion:
1. School-site governance structures emphasize
local accountability for student achievement (Hallinger, 1992;
Harvey, 1991; Wohlstetter & Mohrman, 1994).
2. Essential leadership skills in restructured
schools promote collaboration, consensus building, and empowerment
of others (Common & Grimmit, 1992; Cuban, 1988; Leithwood,
1995; Murphy, 1995).
3. Nationally, an increasing number of vacancies
and a dwindling applicant pool for positions of principal and
superintendent create high-demand conditions for qualified aspirants
for these positions (American Association of School Administrators
[AASA], 1988; Brockett, 1996; Klauke, 1990).
4. Antidiscrimination legislation has fostered
a more open environment for hiring women in nontraditional roles
(Flansburg & Hanson, 1993; Gupton & Del Rosario, 1997;
National Women's Law Center, 1997).
5. Women have made up at least half of educational
administration program enrollments since the mid-80s (Bell &
Chase, 1993; Logan, 1998; National Association of Secondary
School Principals [NASSP], 1998; Tingley, 1996).
6. An increase in the percentage of women in the
educational administration professorate (McCarthy & Kuh,
1997), as well as mentoring programs for women administrators,
provide role models that validate school and school system administration
as a career choice for women (Wesson, 1997).
These six changing conditions that collectively
offer an opportunity for advancing gender equity in hiring practices
for school principals and superintendents are discussed in succeeding
paragraphs. Women have been historically underrepresented in these
two top-level school positions in contrast to the number of women
teachers (Gupton & Slick, 1996; Tyack & Hansot, 1982;
School-site Governance and Accountability
School governance reforms such as school-based decision
making (SBDM) and teacher empowerment change the rules for who
makes hiring decisions. In Kentucky, for example, school council
members make the final selection for employment of principals
(Kentucky Acts, 1990). In addition, principals must consult their
school council when staffing other positions. Although officially
school boards hire all employees, selection for employment of
school-based personnel now resides at the school level. Thus,
school boards are no longer the predominant gatekeepers for the
principalships. School councils share in these decisions.
Although national figures on gender composition
of school councils are not yet readily available, research in
Kentucky and Kansas show that women in these states represent
the majority of school council membership (Kentucky Department
of Education, 1996) and that more women than men participate in
council meetings (Furtwengler, Furtwengler, Holcomb, Hurst, &
Owens, 1995). It should also be noted that women constitute a
majority of teachers in the nation's schools, therefore, teacher
empowerment (as well as council membership) gives women a strong
voice in school decisions. This change does not presuppose that
women will hire women. It does, however, lead to a speculation
that school reform has shuffled the players who influence hiring
School boards still select superintendents. School
council influence for this position will be longer in coming.
Studies have shown that career patterns that lead to the superintendency
generally come via the principalship route and that the most likely
route is the high school principalship (Shakeshaft, 1989). It
follows, therefore, that changes in who occupies principalship
positions will in the long run have an effect on staffing the
superintendency. School-based governance and the changing leadership
paradigm affect the role of both superintendent and principal
and, therefore, call for a new look at the knowledge and skills
required for these roles.
Accountability places more emphasis on the job to
be done than who does the job. Student achievement is paramount
to school success; therefore, the school councils and school personnel
must focus on teaching and learning that fosters high achievement
by all students (Capper, 1993). Legislative and community pressures
demand quantitative evidence of gains in student achievement.
States such as Kentucky link rewards and sanctions for schools
to student results. High stakes accountability for student achievement
shifts attention to the job to be done rather than who does the
job--another factor that can contribute to open access for women
or men administrators who demonstrate requisite characteristics
to get the job done.
Essential Leadership Skills
The traditional bureaucratic model of schools was
led by administrators who governed teachers, students and staff
through formalized goals and procedures (Lee, Smith, & Croninger,
1996). In top-down hierarchical organizations, authoritarian leadership
was most often the pattern for school administration. Public perception
tended to favor men as better able than women to handle discipline,
particularly at the secondary level. Men were also viewed as more
suited than women for working with predominantly male boards of
education and dealing with political influences of the superintendency.
Culturally defined, desirable feminine behavior was nurturing
and caring for others; placing importance on relationships and
the quality of life; and using interpersonal skills, consensus,
and negotiation for solving problems (Bass, 1981; Broverman, Broverman,
Clarkson, Rosenkrantz, & Vogel, 1970; Hofstede, 1991; Shakeshaft,
Organizational leadership of the 90s requires facilitative
leadership that empowers others and values diverse discourse as
a means of reaching better decisions (Grogan, 1998). School principal
and superintendent roles are being reconceived, renegotiated,
and reshaped (Bredesen, 1998; Brunner, 1998; Grogan, 1998). Brunner
(1998) notes that literature on women in positions of power supports
the notion that women bring to administrative practice many characteristics
necessary for school reform. With a redefinition of requisite
skills and characteristics of an effective school administrator,
a teachable moment exists for erasing gender stereotypes and focusing
on desirable characteristics that applicants (men or women) bring
to the position. The dissonance created by changing perceptions
about schools presents an opportunity for educating school council
and school board members to identify the best candidates to fill
school administrative positions based on strengths and skills
that are not gender specific.
Principalship and Superintendency Demand and
Both principalships and superintendencies are experiencing
high rates of turnover and a shrinking applicant pool (NASSP,
1998; Tingley, 1996). Turnover rates for school administration
have more than doubled in recent years (NASSP, 1998). More than
half of all superintendents and principals are becoming eligible
for retirement (Bowles, 1990; Hess, 1988). The demand for school
administrators is likely to become even greater with a predicted
10 to 20% increase in the need for school administrators through
2005 due to increased enrollments (NASSP, 1998).
A report by the New York State Council of School
Superintendents (cited in Tingley, 1996) called attention to a
growing concern about the size and quality of the candidate pool
for administrative conditions. Educational reform narrowed the
gap between teacher salaries and those of administrators and,
at the same time, increased the complexity of school leadership
line positions. Educational reform initiatives since the 80s have
significantly affected the superintendency (Bredeson, 1998). Changes
in traditional sources of power for the position and priorities
for the work role have placed superintendents in the position
of legitimating their influence with constituents and competing
with other local officials for scarce resources (Bredeson, 1998).
The stress and uncertainties of the superintendency are likely
factors in a high rate of turnover for the position (Gmelch, 1990;
Sweeney, 1982). Brockett (1996) expressed a nationwide concern
that superintendency positions in the next decade will become
vacant faster than they can be filled.
The NASSP (1998) in a national survey of 403 superintendents
asked about principalship shortages and found that 55% of the
respondents reported a shortage in the labor pool for secondary
principal positions. Insufficient compensation compared to responsibilities,
job stress, and time requirements are cited by educational leaders
and personnel officers as deterrents to the attractiveness of
What does this shortage of principal and superintendent
applicants mean for women administrative aspirants? Search committees,
school boards, and councils will be hard pressed to find sufficient
qualified applicants. Opportunities exist for well qualified applicants.
The job openings are there.
Legislative and Cultural Change
Title IX and supporting legislation such as the
Women's Educational Equity Act opened doors for women in education
and extended employment protections of the Civil Rights Act to
include gender (Flansburg & Hanson, 1997). Changes brought
about by legislation show up directly in visible processes and
procedures. Attitudes toward these changes and acceptance of different
ways of thinking take much longer but must occur before culture
and societal expectations are modified. In spite of its limitations,
Title IX has made significant change in U.S. education and within
society (Flansburg & Hanson, 1997).
More women moving into higher education and filling
nontraditional occupational roles as a result of antidiscrimination
legislation, a national focus on inequities, and more successful
women visible in a variety of roles have influenced societal expectations
and helped to create a more favorable environment for women in
administrative leadership. Women have moved into more executive
jobs in the corporate world. An annual census of women corporate
officers by the research group Catalyst showed that women hold
10.6% of corporate officer posts in the Fortune 500 companies
(cited in Jackson, 1997). The study noted that work is still needed
to help women advance in business but that the number of women
among the top five earners at Fortune 500 companies has more than
doubled since 1994. Times have changed dramatically in the last
20 years, and women leaders have been evident in every walk of
life for sometime (West, 1997). Possibilities for women to move
into top-level school administrative positions are more optimistic
than ever before. Today's world is rapidly changing and change
has become a way of life. Although problems still persist and
much remains to be done to remove gender filters in the workplace,
conditions are favorable for advancing gender equity.
Women's Leap into the Hiring Pool
In school administration programs, the percentage
of women students now outnumbers men. A 1997 survey of member
institutions in the University Council for Educational Administration
(UCEA) showed that 74% of certification programs in respondent
institutions had from 51% to 72% women (Logan, 1998). Thirty percent
of these institutions had more than 60% women students in these
programs. The survey response rate was 50%. Results from this
survey correspond to other research that shows women entering
educational administration programs in increasing numbers since
the 1970s (Cunanan, 1994; Grogan, 1996; Edson, 1988). Bell and
Chase (1993) reported that women have made up at least half of
educational administration program enrollments since the mid-80s.
The number of women awarded superintendent certificates increased
nationally between 1970 and 1984 by 15% (Grogan, 1996)
Women enrolled in doctoral educational administration
programs reflect only a slightly lower percentage than certification
enrollments. The UCEA survey showed 59% of respondents with a
majority of women doctoral students (Logan, 1998). Of those with
less than 51% women in educational administration doctoral programs,
30% had between 41% to 50% women. The percentage of women completing
these doctoral programs experienced the greatest gain after 1980.
Thirty-seven percent of reporting UCEA institutions had 41% to
50% women doctoral completers since 1980, 30% had between 51%
and 60%, and one institution reported over 51% women doctoral
completers after 1980. Other research has shown that women often
believe that in order to be hired for administrative positions
they must be better prepared than men (Gupton & Slick, 1996);
therefore, more women than men educational administrative aspirants
may seek a doctorate degree.
The low percentage of women employed in school administration
line positions cannot be attributed to a lack of aspiration to
be principal or superintendent. With the number of women who have
entered and completed educational administration programs since
1980, lack of aspiration is clearly not a barrier. More women
than men are entering the applicant pool. Work remains to be done
to gain attention for women and minorities as potential school
leaders (Bowles, 1990).
Support Systems for Women
A noticeable increase in the percentage of women
faculty members in university preparation programs has been an
encouraging influence for women to become educational administrators.
In 1986 only 12% of educational administration faculty were women
compared to 27% women for college faculties overall (Bell &
Chase, 1993; McCarthy & Kuh, 1997). By 1994, women in UCEA
institutions made up 29% of all educational leadership faculty
(McCarthy & Kuh, 1997). Women professors serve as role models
for aspiring women administrators and help to validate students'
decision to prepare for school administration.
Literature since 1980 has shifted emphasis from
explanations for underrepresentation of women in educational administration
to a need for better support systems (Benton, 1980; Coursen, 1989;
Gupton & Slick, 1996; Johnson, 1991; Swiderski, 1988). This
attention to mentoring, role models, and networks for women is
one plausible explanation for the greater numbers of women preparing
for these positions. Mentorships and responsible internship placements
assist women's transition into school administration and continue
to be important.
As more women become principals and superintendents,
support strategies should be redirected toward helping those who
enter the field succeed and advance. Career advancement and career
mobility continue to be concerns (Grady & Gosmire, 1995; Irby
& Brown, 1995).
Women need connectedness in the workplace (Gilligan,
1982). The Internet and e-mail add new media for networking and
communicating (Glasscock, 1997). Communities of interest on the
Internet enable worldwide communication in an instant. Electronic
networks such as Advancing Women can be important tools to build
a sense of community among women leaders. These electronic support
systems help women connect with one another as they develop an
identity as administrators (Glasscock, 1997).
Strategic Advancement Strategies
Now is the time for University educators to move
away from SOS "save our ship" strategies that recruit
women and bolster educational administration enrollments. This
article is not an SOS call but rather a SAS challenge--a challenge
to educational administration faculty to develop and implement
new strategic advancement strategies that level the playing field
for women and men and that promote high expectations for all persons
who enter the profession of school leadership. Today's schools
can afford no less. As one of the prime gatekeepers of the field,
faculties in educational administration preparation programs can
be catalysts for change. Communities look to universities for
leadership. Higher education reform expects universities to serve
their constituencies through education and support of local leadership.
Reforming and reframing schools presents an opportune time to
set new goals for the profession and to activate strategies to
get there. Equal access in hiring practices for qualified school
administrator candidates can be advanced through information and
training for school council and school board members; through
a relevant, rigorous administrative preparation program appropriate
for the context of today's schools; and through continuous efforts
to focus public attention on respect for diversity and desirable
leadership skills for schools.
Bateson (1996) emphasized that change represents
an ongoing adjustment and adaptation to new contexts and is not
something that will ever be done once and for all (p. 7). Equity
and equality should be regarded in the same manner. Advancement
in these areas requires continuous effort. New contexts require
strategic action. Educational administration is at the apex of
systemic school reform. The context of schools has changed significantly
since 1990. If equity in employment, advancement, and retention
of highly qualified school leadership is where we want to go,
we must rethink and reactivate a plan to get there. Conditions
are right to adapt, adjust, and advance the cause of equity and
quality. Change is underway but we cannot rest. The job is not
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Joyce P. Logan is an Assistant Professor of
Department of Administration and Supervision, College of Education,
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
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