A. Manuel, Ed.D.
John R. Slate, Ph.D.
SLATE, FALL, 2003
women superintendents represent a dual anomaly in traditional constructs
of societal perceptions of school superintendents.
school districts across the country are searching for competent
leaders to head their school systems (Henry, 2000; Johnson, 1996).
Tingley (1996), Bowler (2000), and Czaja and Harman (1997) reported
a growing concern over the shortage of qualified applicants to
lead the nation's school districts. Fenwick (2000) stated that
higher turnover rates, lower job appeal and a decreased number
of candidates characterize the modern superintendency. As evidence,
Fenwick (2000) quoted AASA Director Paul Houston as stating that,
typically at any one time, interim superintendents hold 15% of
superintendent positions. To compound the shortage problem, Krantz
(2000) projected that 80% of superintendents are nearing retirement
age. The lack of leaders to lead the nation's school districts
may be a crisis confronting the future of public education (Henry,
2000). With concerns of where future leaders of the nation's school
system will come from, the question arises: why aren't more women
entering the ranks of the superintendency?
the pool of superintendent applicants shrinking, the lack of female
superintendents should be a significant concern (Brunner, 2000;
Grogan, 1994; Keller, 1999; Shakeshaft, 1995). Education is a field
dominated by women. Seventy percent of teachers are women; however,
the superintendency is a position heavily dominated by men. More
males than females are currently employed as superintendents (Ikpa,
1995; Norton, Webb, Dlugosh, & Sybouts, 1996; Papalewis, 1995).
Female representation in the superintendency has fluctuated in
the past 60 years, yet the number of female superintendents has
not been equitable with the number of males. In 1928, 1.6% of the
nation's superintendents were females. That percentage had only
increased to 7.1% by 1993 (Montenegro, 1993). Today, females comprise
a mere 12% of superintendents nationwide, whereas males constitute
88% of superintendents (Hornbeck, 1999).
underrepresentation of women in the superintendency has prompted
many researchers to investigate the reasons why more women are
not superintendents (Bjork, 2000). According to Grogan (1994) and
Brunner (1998a), gender is a factor in why women are not represented
more in the ranks of the superintendency. Only in the past 20 years
have women superintendents been studied (Tallerico, 1999). Grady
and Wesson (1994) claimed that a paucity of research exists on
women superintendents because most of the research has been focused
on male superintendents. More knowledge about how women attain
the superintendency is needed (Grogan, 1996). Brunner (2000) stated
that the investigation of women superintendents has been a "previously
neglected" area of research (p. 76). Issacson (1998) recommended
that further research on career pathways of female superintendents
was required in future studies.
into the way female superintendents gain their leadership positions
are limited (Hodgkinson & Montenegro, 1999; Vail, 1999). Grogan
(1996) stated that the superintendency is "not a particularly
well-researched leadership position" (p. 119). Johnson (1996)
characterized the research on the superintendency as "scant"
(p. 19). In addition, researchers need to address the salient factors
that influence superintendent retention and recruitment (Czaja
& Harman, 1997).
and Bell (1994) noted that several state departments of education,
university departments of education, and some state legislatures
have publicly identified the underrepresentation of females in
the superintendency as a problem. However, Jackson (1999) asserted
that "to date no one has compiled accurate, complete, and
dependable information on women superintendents" (p. 143).
The effort to acquire information on women superintendents has
been minimal (Keller, 1999). Unreliable statistics on women superintendents,
coupled with the small number of women in the superintendency,
has deterred many interested researchers from investigating the
female experience in the superintendency (Kowalski & Stouder,
disturbing than the overall inequity between male and female representation
in the superintendency is the sparse numbers of minority women
who reach superintendency positions. Hansot and Tyack (1982) reported
that minorities, in general, seldom obtained positions as superintendents
prior to the 1960s. Bell and Chase (1992) asserted that 96% of
superintendents were white. In consideration of Hispanic women,
rarely are they appointed to the position of superintendent (Ortiz,
1999). According to Mendez-Morse (1999), information on Hispanic
women superintendents is almost nonexistent and this lack of information
has created a "serious deficiency" in the knowledge base
of educational administration (p. 126).
little over 10 years ago, Bell and Chase (1992) endeavored to quantify
female and minority representation in educational leadership positions
across the United States. They reported a total of nine Hispanic
women serving as superintendents across the country (Bell &
Chase, 1992). A recent publication by the American Association
of School Administrators (AASA) described a national survey in
which issues of career pathways and perceived barriers for women
superintendents were examined. There were 2,262 respondents in
the AASA study. Of that total, 297 were women superintendents,
and only four Hispanic females contributed responses (Glass, Bjork,
& Brunner, 2000). A need exists to conduct research on larger
samples because, as Litwin (1995) suggested, reliability of research
is increased through sampling larger numbers of a population.
their theoretical model of the career choices of college women,
Betz and Fitzgerald (1987) postulated that a combination of independent
and dependent variables influence the career paths of women. The
model specifies factors that facilitate a "goodness-of-fit"
between a woman and the woman's career success (p. 146). How the
variables interact for women who ascend to the superintendency
may be clarified and explained by using this framework.
and Fitzgerald (1987) identified four exogenous latent variables
and five endogenous latent variables, which influence the plausibility
of a woman's career choice. Independent variables presented in
the career choice model are the cultural and social environments
that influence a woman's career achievement (Betz & Fitzgerald,
1987). Positive cultural and social contexts provide a basis for
a woman to develop affirmative attitudes toward career progression.
Work experience, academic success, perceived encouragement, and
role models are the four independent variables. According to Betz
and Fitzgerald (1987), the variables of work experience, academic
success, role models, and perceived encouragement are precursors
to and positive attitudinal formation of work, self and sex-role,
and lifestyle choices consistent with achieving high level executive
positions like that of the superintendency.
this study, our purpose was to determine
the personal and professional experiences of Hispanic females in
their pathway to the superintendency. We were interested in ascertaining
what work experiences, academic achievement, and lifestyle choices
characterized their ascension to the superintendency. In addition,
we were interested in the presence and gender of role models and
mentors for these women. Finally, we wanted to determine if the
women felt differently in their perceptions of barriers for themselves,
versus their perceptions of barriers for women, in general.
in this study were 23 Hispanic female superintendents of public
school districts across the United States. The senior researcher
generated a list of possible female superintendents from the 50
website addresses for the 50 state departments of education in
the United States. State department of education websites were
accessed and the researcher navigated the websites to obtain lists
of public school districts and superintendents. Once the list of
superintendents was obtained, the researcher reviewed the list
to ascertain which superintendents were possibly female. The following
criteria were used to identify possible females: 1) the superintendent's
name is traditionally considered a female name (e.g, Betty, Margaret,
Candace, etc.); 2) an initial was used as a first name without
the title Mr.; 3) the name had the title Ms., Mrs., or Miss.; 4)
the name is commonly used by either males or females (e.g, Jerry,
Tony, Gerry, Marty, Pat, Terry, etc.).
the list of superintendents was reviewed based on the stated criteria,
the senior researcher composed a comprehensive list of possible
female superintendents and entered the names into an Excel database.
Other issues related to the possible misidentification of superintendents
as female when they are male was addressed in the data gathering
process by providing a clear statement that only females should
respond to the survey. Also contained in the survey instrument
was a question for respondents to designate whether they are male
or female and to specify their ethnicity. Women who selected Hispanic
as their ethnicity were extracted from the larger group of responses
from all women who responded to the survey. Thus, this study is
a subsample of the larger set of female superintendents who responded
to the survey.
who responded to the survey completed a 53-item questionnaire to
measure their responses to career pathways and perceived barriers
to the superintendency. The questionnaire, designed to procure
information on the career experiences and perceived barriers of
female superintendents, was divided into seven sections. Section
one, items 1 to 7, addressed demographic information. A second
section on educational background, items 8 to 12, presented several
choices for the respondent to document the educational experiences
that pertain to her. Items 13 to 26, in the third section asked
respondents to indicate their career paths to the superintendency.
Items 27 to 31, comprised the fourth section and contained questions
about mentors and role-models. Lifestyle choices were covered in
the fifth section of the questionnaire. Respondents delineated
their marital status, history, and parental status. The sixth section
consisted of five questions regarding school board/superintendent
relations. A final section, items 42 to 53, contained two four-point
Likert scales, with responses from "important" to "don't
know", to ascertain the level to which women believed the
barriers precluded a woman's ascension to the superintendency,
in general, and the level to which they believed the barriers hindered
their own ascension to the superintendency.
statistics were used to analyze the data, including frequency distributions
and percentages. Frequencies and percentages of Hispanic female
superintendents responses to the survey items were calculated according
to personal demographic information, district information, educational
experiences, career pathways, and perceptions of barriers. Readers
are referred to Tables
1 to 13 for the women's responses in frequencies and percentages
to the survey items.
information on Hispanic female superintendents included the following:
geographical location, age, marital status, number of marriages,
number of children, number of children under 18 living at home,
number of siblings, and birth order. Of the Hispanic female superintendent
respondents, 73.9% were between the ages of 46 and 55, with 8.6%
reporting they were less than 46 years of age. Only one woman documented
being over 60 years of age. In regard to information on the birth
families of Hispanic women superintendents, the number of siblings
women superintendents reported ranged from 0 to 5. Seventy-three
point nine percent of women reported having one to three siblings,
with 4.3% reporting no siblings. Birth order of women responding
to the survey, indicated that 43.5% were the firstborn child in
their family. Almost 92 percent (91.3%) of women superintendents
reported that they are first, second, or third-born children. Only
8.6% of the respondents were fourth or fifth-born in their family.
majority of Hispanic female superintendents reported being married
(78.3%), with no respondents reporting being single at the time
of completing the survey. Being married one time characterized
the marital history of 69.6% of the women. No respondents designated
that they had been in more than two marriages. The number of children
reported by Hispanic women superintendents ranged from zero to
five. More than half (56.5%) of the women have two children, and
17.4% have one child. 17.3% reported having three or more children.
In-so-far as women reported on how many school-aged children lived
with then, 73.9% claimed that no child of school age lived with
size of the school districts that women superintendent respondents
serve is depicted in Table
2. Serving in districts with enrollments of less than 3,000
students were 59.1% of our Hispanic women superintendent sample,
with 26.0% being superintendents in districts with student enrollments
of 10,000 - 99,999. Frequencies and percentages of students who
receive free lunch in the districts of women superintendent respondents
are depicted in Table
3. No Hispanic women superintendent respondents work in school
districts where the percentage of students on free lunch was 20%
or less. Exactly, 25.0% serve as superintendents in districts where
more than half of the students receive a free lunch. The majority
of women (70.0%) serve in districts where at least 61 percent of
students receive free lunch.
undergraduate majors of women superintendent respondents are provided
4. Over one-third (35.3%) of the respondents reported that they
majored in education for their baccalaureate degree. The next most
common major was social sciences at 17.6%. The master's degree majors
of women superintendents are reported in Table
5. It should be noted that this item required respondents to
write in their master's degree major. Combining all education-related
majors yields a percentage of 76.2%. The most common specific major
was educational leadership/administration at 23.8%.
6 presents the distribution of respondents by level of education,
and for those women who held a doctoral degree by doctoral major.
Holding a doctoral degree was 60.9% of our sample, with 4.3% holding
an education specialist degree. Reporting that they held a doctoral
degree in educational leadership/administration/policy was 64.3%
of our women superintendents who held a doctoral degree. Only one
respondent indicated that her doctoral major was educational psychology/counseling.
Regarding the distribution of women superintendent respondents by
attendance at women's colleges and type of undergraduate institution,
only 8.7% of the respondents indicated that they had attended a
women's college, with 82.6% saying they attended a public undergraduate
means and standard deviations for years of experience as a teacher,
administrator, central office staff member and superintendent can
be found in Table
7. It is interesting to note that the average number of years
women superintendents served as a teacher and an administrator are
almost identical, 10.95 years and 11.13 years, respectively. These
data indicate that the "average" female superintendent
spends a significant amount of time as a teacher and an administrator
before attaining the superintendency. Women superintendents have
served their school districts between four and five years (4.30
8 shows the career pathways of Hispanic women superintendent
respondents. The most common career pathway reported by the respondents
was teacher, elementary principal, central office (34.8%). The second
most common career pathways were teacher, central office (13.0%)
and teacher, high school principal, central office (13.0%). More
than 6 in 10 respondents (60.8%) indicated that they had served
as a school principal at some level before assuming the superintendency.
It is interesting to note that 17.4% of women superintendents reported
a career pathway that was not included as an option in question
20 of the survey instrument. However, the percentages of those females
who have served as elementary, middle, and high school principals
are strikingly different. Approximately 70% (69.5%) of the respondents
had central office experience prior to becoming a superintendent.
superintendents were asked to describe their career in relation
to family. More than 5 out of 10 respondents (56.5%) indicated that
they never took time off from pursuing their career because of family
concerns. Almost 18% (17.4%) describe their career path in relation
to family as "double track" - some time off with children.
Only 8.6% of Hispanic women superintendents indicated that their
career was interrupted for five or more years because of their children
or for reasons other than family. Table
9 depicts the career pathway of Hispanic women superintendents
in relation to family.
mentorship of women superintendents is presented in Table
10. Over three-fourths (78.3%) of the respondents reported that
they had a mentor. Of the women superintendents who had a mentor,
more than 6 out of 10 (65.2%) were mentored by men. Reporting they
had a role model was 82.3% of the women superintendent respondents,
with 42.9% of these role models being men and 38.1% being women.
11 depicts the frequencies and percentages of Hispanic women
superintendents who reported a role model and the gender of the
asked who encouraged the respondents most to obtain the superintendency,
Hispanic female superintendent respondents reported encouragement
from self (34.8%) and colleague(s) (30.4%) as being the most frequent,
primary sources of encouragement in their careers (Table
12). Slightly less than 22% (21.7%) reported that they received
the most encouragement from their spouse. Only one respondent indicated
that a professor(s) was a primary source of encouragement.
VII of the survey instrument listed 12 possible barriers to attainment
of the superintendency. Women superintendents were asked to select
the degree of importance each barrier was to women in general, and
how applicable the barriers were to them in particular. Table
13 shows women superintendents' perceptions of barriers for
women in general. All perceived barriers, except one, were rated
by a plurality of respondents as "somewhat important,"
or "important." Only one perceived barrier, the perception
that women have difficulty working with others, was perceived as
"not important" by a plurality of respondents (56.5%),
and only one barrier, lack of mobility of family members, received
a plurality of support by more than half (65.2%) of the respondents.
Respondents had definite views regarding barriers to the superintendency.
The percentage of respondents who responded, "don't know,"
ranged from 0.0% to 8.7%.
data in Table
14 indicates respondents' perceptions of barriers from their
own experience. Only 1 of the 12 perceived barriers, that school
boards do not actively recruit women, was rated equally as "important"
or "not important" by 40.9% of Hispanic women superintendent
respondents. Only one perceived barrier, a lack of mobility of family
members, was rated as "important " by more than 40% (40.9%)
of the respondents. It appears that the respondents had definite
views regarding barriers to the superintendency based on their own
experience. The percentage of respondents who responded "don't
know" was 0.0% for 9 of the 12 barriers and 4.5% for 3 of the
Bell and Chase (1992) aptly stated, "any understanding of
race and gender in the educational system in the United States
needs to be based on information about where
women of various
racial and ethnic backgrounds are located in that system."
(p. 142). From a larger national sampling of 1010 women superintendents,
we identified 23 Hispanic women superintendents and where they
were located in the 2000-2001 school year. Furthermore, we gathered
data on the personal demographic, school district information,
education experiences, career pathways, and perceptual barriers
these women reported. Because Ortiz (1999) estimated that only
25 to 30 Hispanic women held the position of superintendency nationwide,
a response of 23 was accepted as an inclusive representation of
a plurality of Hispanic Women superintendents in the 2000-2001
our sample, 47.8% reported serving in the southwest or far west
region of the United States. This finding supports the research
of Glass, Bjork, and Brunner (2000) who found greater minority
representation in these geographical areas versus other areas of
the United States. In addition, our finding is consistent with
Ortiz's (1999) contention that Hispanic women superintendents are
appointed mostly in western states. The concentration of Hispanic
women superintendents in the western states also suggests that
Hispanic women are more likely to be selected for superintendent
positions in areas dominated by large populations of Hispanic students,
in comparison to areas where there is a low concentration of Hispanic
students. Trueba (1998) stated that Hispanic students are well
represented in the southwestern states of California, Texas, Arizona,
and New Mexico.
profiling the personal demographics of Hispanic women superintendents,
we concluded that a plurality were married (78.3%), between the
ages of 51 and 55 (43.5%), have entered into at least one marriage
(100.0%), have two children (56.5%), and, the children were more
likely to be over 18 years of age, not living in the female superintendent's
home (73.9%). While we endeavored to create a personal demographic
profile of a Hispanic women superintendent, Hispanic women superintendents
in our study resonated the findings of previous studies in which
women superintendents, in general had been profiled according to
personal demographic information. For example, Glass et al. (2000)
discovered that 23.1% in their national study of women superintendents
were not married and Grogan (1996) claimed that very few women
administrators have never married. A majority of Hispanic women
superintendents in this study (91.3%) reported having children.
This finding is consistent with Obermeyer's (1996) and Wright's
(1995) assertions that most women superintendents are mothers.
the present study, Hispanic women superintendents tended to be
first-born children (43.5%). A paucity of research exists on the
birth order of women superintendents. Winkler (1994) and Schuster
(1987) detected more first-born children among female superintendents
than later-born children. Manuel (2001) concluded from her study
of 1010 women superintendents nationwide, that close to 50% (49.5%)
of women superintendents were first-born children.
findings related to the school district information of Hispanic
women superintendents in the present study were consistent, yet
inconsistent, with the existing literature on the size of school
districts women, in general, have been reported to lead. Many researchers
have purported that women serve in smaller districts (Anderson,
1998; Angulo, 1995; Jackson, 1999; Wright, 1995). Glass et al.
(2000) stated that the average school district size across the
nation to be 3,000 students. In the present study, the highest
concentration of Hispanic women superintendents (21.7%) reported
leading districts with less than 300 students; therefore, supporting
the contention that women serve in smaller districts. Conversely,
the data of the present study showed that close to 45% (43.7%)
of Hispanic women superintendents served in districts with 3,000
or more students.
in the present study were that half (50%) of Hispanic women superintendents
serve in disadvantaged school districts where 71% or more students
receive free lunch. This finding is consistent with Chase and Bell's
(1994) assertion that minority women are often leaders of disadvantaged
school districts. However, Manuel (2001) reported from her study
of 946 women across the United States that a mere 11% of women
led districts with 71 percent or more students qualifying for free
lunch, thus suggesting that among all women superintendents, minority
women are more likely than white women to be appointed to school
districts with high percentages of disadvantaged students.
the present study, a plurality of Hispanic women superintendents
reported majoring in some field of education at the Master's level
(76.2%) and obtaining a doctoral degree (60.9%). These findings
were consistent with Glass et al.'s (2000) national study of superintendents
whereby minority and female superintendents were more likely to
have achieved a doctoral level of education in comparison to white
male superintendents. In Ortiz's (1999) qualitative study of 12
Hispanic women superintendents, 9 of the 12 women she studied possessed
significance was noted in the high percentage of women (64.3%)
who majored in educational leadership, administration, or policy
at the doctoral level. Ortiz (1999) suggested that women tend to
major in areas affiliated with curriculum and instruction, which
does not prepare women for superintendent responsibilities in the
areas of finance and personnel. Though no respondents in our study
reported majoring in curriculum and instruction at the doctoral
level, we speculate that our finding may substantiate Ortiz's (1999)
contention in so far as Hispanic women who actually obtain the
superintendency are granted access to the position because they
did not major in curriculum and instruction, but majored in leadership,
administration, or policy. Overall, our findings suggest that Hispanic
women who achieve the rank of superintendent majored in education
at the undergraduate level, obtained a master's degree in some
area of education, and acquired a doctoral degree with a concentration
in education leadership, administration, or policy.
predominant career trajectory reported by over half of Hispanic
women superintendents (56.5%) was a teacher, principal (elementary,
middle, or secondary), central office, superintendent pathway,
with 34.8% of respondents designating that they served in the position
of elementary principal. This finding negates findings by Logan
(1999) and Tallerico (2000a) who reported that women who have served
in elementary principalships seldom move up to the ranks of the
superintendency, and Alston's (1999) claim that the classic pattern
for women is teacher-central office. Only 13.0% of the women in
this study reported a teacher-central office career pathway to
the superintendency. Findings in the present study are consistent
with Baumann (1999) who reported on the career pathways of women
superintendents, respectively, that women superintendents more
often serve as elementary principals sometime during their careers.
their study of 297 women superintendents across the nation, Glass
et al. (2000) reported that 45.9% of women superintendents followed
a teacher, principal, central office career pathway; 20.6% followed
a teacher, principal pathway; and 17.2% followed a teacher, central
office pathway. We found similar career patterns among Hispanic
of career pathways in relation to family revealed that 56.5% reported
that their career path was uninterrupted by concerns related to
their family. Many researchers have commented on the importance
of mentors and role models for women who aspire to reach the superintendency
(Flak, 1998; Funk, 1986; Renner, 1991; Wenner, 1998). In our study,
a plurality of women reported having mentors and role models, 78.3%
and 82.6%, respectively. We speculate at least two reasons for
this finding. First, Hispanic women who were successful at attaining
the superintendency actively seek mentors to assist them in their
career progressions. Secondly, Hispanic women who experience sponsorship
or exposure to role models are more likely to achieve the superintendency
than those women who do not experience sponsorship or exposure
to role models.
(1990), Renner (1991), and Bourdreau (1994) noted that sources
of encouragement are an important influence in the careers of women
leaders. The present study was aimed at ascertaining which sources
of encouragement were more important among Hispanic women superintendents.
Respondents to this study reported that their primary sources of
encouragement were themselves (34.8%) and colleagues (30.4%). The
finding that women cited themselves as their primary source of
encouragement was not surprising. Many researchers have noted a
high sense of self-efficacy among successful Hispanic women leaders
(Gandara, 1994; Mendez-Morse, 1999). Comparatively, the assertion
that colleagues are an important source of encouragement for female
superintendents has been substantiated by Bourdreau (1994), Kowalski
and Stouder (1999), Ortiz (1999), and Winkler (1994). Whereas spousal
support has been emphasized by Issacson (1998) and Hensley (1996)
in their research on women superintendents, findings in the present
study indicate that spousal support was only mentioned by close
to 22% (21.7%) of women as a primary source of encouragement and
parental or sibling support was not indicated by any of the women
as a primary source of encouragement in attaining the superintendency.
These findings appear to dispute the assertions of Renner (1991),
Dorner (1982), Jackson (1999), Mendez-Morse (1999), and Lundin
(1993) who stated that family encouragement was a predominant source
of inspiration for women superintendents.
respondents in this study reported a low percentage of professorial
support (4.3%) for Hispanic women superintendents, which is not
surprising. Logan (1999) found that professors view female students
as having more barriers than male students in achieving the superintendency.
An earlier study by Delong (1986) suggested that professors perceived
females as having less potential than males in educational administration
presence of barriers for women who want to be superintendents has
been a component of several studies of female superintendents and
women aspiring to the superintendency. A number of researchers
(Chase & Bell, 1994; Kowalski & Stouder, 1999; Zumsteg,
1991) have reported findings consistent with this study, that barriers
women face are factors in the underrepresentation of women in the
our study, respondents indicated that for women in general, all
12 barriers were "somewhat important," or "important,"
with the exception of the perception that women have difficulty
working with others. Conversely, a plurality of Hispanic women
superintendents reported that, in their own experience, 6 out of
the 12 barriers were not important factors for them in acquiring
a superintendency. The remaining six barriers that women classified
as "important" or "somewhat important" for
women in general as well as in their own experience is a notable
finding as previous researchers have purported a tendency for women
superintendents to perceive the degree of barriers for women, in
general, as stronger than the barriers for themselves. Recent studies
by Stouder (1998), Dobberteen (1996), and Woodworth (1996) concluded
that a preponderance of women superintendents evaluated barriers
for themselves as less important than barriers for other women.
Manuel's (2001) aggregated data in a national study of 946 women
superintendents indicated that women rated all 12 barriers for
women, in general, as "important" or "somewhat important,"
yet the women rated barriers in their own experience as "not
important." The opinions Hispanic women superintendents diverged
from this point. That is to say that Hispanic women did not indicate
that for women, in general, all 12 barriers were "important"
or "somewhat important," and all 12 barriers in their
personal experience were "not important." Based on their
own experience, 50% or more of Hispanic women superintendents claimed
that they perceived six of the obstacles as influential. These
six barriers were: school boards not actively recruiting women,
lack of professional networks, perception of school board members
that women are unqualified to handle finances, perception that
women will allow their emotions to influence administrative decision,
perception that women are not strong leaders, and lack of mentor/mentoring
in school districts.
explanations may be postulated why 50% or more Hispanic women would
rate these barriers as ""important" or "somewhat
important" versus "not important." Four of these
obstacles on the survey requested that the respondents rate social
perceptions of women in leadership positions. Why Hispanic women
would classify these perceptions as formidable obstacles in their
experience may be explained by the women's challenges to be recognized
as leaders in educational systems where the overwhelming majority
of leaders are white males. Hispanic women superintendents represent
a dual anomaly in traditional constructs of societal perceptions
of school superintendents. In our culture, the position of public
school superintendents is synonymous with being male and White
(Shakeshaft, 1995; Tallerico, 2000b); therefore, Hispanic women
superintendents defy traditional ethnic and gender perceptions
(Mendez-Morse, 1999; Ortiz, 1982). This may offer a reason why
50% or more (50.0% - 59.1%) of Hispanic women have classified that
they perceive school boards not actively recruiting women, the
perception of school board members that women are unqualified to
handle finances, the perception that women are not strong leaders,
or the perception that will allow their emotions to influence administrative
decision as being "important" or somewhat important"
obstacles which they experienced in their quest for the superintendency.
significance was noted in the large percentage of women who responded
that a lack of professional networks (63.7%) and a lack of mentor/mentoring
in school districts (59.1%) were "important" or "somewhat
important" barriers in their career paths toward the superintendency.
Professional networks and mentoring relationships involve interaction
among or between the Hispanic woman and the people she affiliates
with professionally. By citing the significance of these barriers,
Hispanic women seem to suggest that they do not receive encouragement
from people within educational systems. This finding appeared inconsistent
with two other aspects of the survey in which a plurality of women
(78.3%) responded that they had mentors, and that colleagues were
a primary source of encouragement for at least one-third (30.4%)
of the women. We can speculate at least three reasons for our findings.
Though Hispanic women found mentors, the mentors were not readily
available to the women. Another plausible explanation may be that
the Hispanic women in our survey were not satisfied with their
mentoring relationships, although they did have mentors. Finally,
the colleagues that served as a primary source of encouragement
for 30.4% of Hispanic women were not personal contacts within the
domain of the women's professional networks.
are urged to be cautious in the extent to which they make generalizations
from these findings. Our study is limited by its sample in that
our sample comprised Hispanic women superintendents who chose to
respond to a survey on their career pathways and perception of
barriers. Second, the extent to which our Hispanic women superintendents
are representative of other Hispanic women superintendents is unclear.
Third, the sample size itself is small. Readers should note, however,
that the actual number of Hispanic women superintendents is not
believed to be substantially larger than our sample of respondents.
Moreover, we used a quantitative survey as our measurement of attitudes
toward career pathways and perceived barriers. The use of a different
measurement instrument, perhaps one in which open-ended questions
were present, might yield different findings. Until these finding
are replicated and extended to other settings, readers should be
tentative in whatever generalizations they make from these findings.
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A. Manuel is a Special Education Teacher in the Roanoke County
Dr. John R.
is a Visiting Clinical Professor, University of Missouri, Kansas