Although women comprise a majority of the nation's
public school teaching force, most school administrators are white
males, and at the highest level in public school administration,
the superintendency, there seems to be a great deal of resistance
to gender and minority integration.
School administrators generally come from the ranks of teachers. Therefore,
a historical perspective of women and minorities in teaching provides
a framework for understanding the role of women and minorities in
White males did almost all formal teaching in this country until
the late eighteenth century, and it was not until the end of the
colonial period that women began to teach in elementary school.
But by the end of the nineteenth century women outnumbered males
in the teaching profession. This was due in part to the high demand
for males in the private sector and the rapid growth of the elementary
school (Shakeshaft, 1989).
Recent figures (Feistritzer, 1990) indicate that this trend is
escalating; since 1985, 78% of new teachers hired were women, and
92% were white; only 5% of teachers hired since 1985 were African-American;
2% were Hispanic and 1% were Asian. The number of Native American
teachers hired since 1985 is negligible (Feistritzer, 1990). So
while the number of women in the teaching profession is increasing,
the number of minority teachers is declining. In part this decline
of minority teachers may be accounted for by circumstances that
are similar to those in the African-American community as reported
In the 1980's [B]lacks began in increasingly larger numbers to
take advantage of the fact that professions other than teaching
usually are more financially rewarding and prestigious. Black communities
have always held educators in high esteem, but as communities have
become more integrated, and teachers have moved their residences
from the communities in which they teach, teacher status among blacks
has dropped. As the number of black professionals grows in other
fields, teachers lose significance. In addition, because society
evaluates one's worth and status according to income, low salaries
have contributed to the decline in teacher status within the black
community as it assimilates the values of the larger society (p.363).
Although the gender of students is fairly evenly distributed across
educational levels, women teachers are concentrated at the elementary
level and decrease in number in middle, secondary, and postsecondary
institutions. Table 1 shows the gender stratification in teaching
and administration for American K-12 public schools and both public
and private postsecondary institutions (Bell & Chase, 1993).
Gender Stratification: Proportion of Female Students/Faculty/Board
Source: Bell & Chase, "The Underrepresentation of Women in
School Leadership," in Catherine Marshall (ed.), The New Politics
of Race and Gender, 1993.
The racial and ethnic stratification of faculty, leaders and board
members in the education system in American schools is even more
striking than the gender stratification. Table 2 shows that, particularly
in K-12 public schools, faculty, educational leaders, and board
members in the United States do not closely reflect the racial and
ethnic diversity of the student body. While 16.1% of elementary,
middle, and secondary students are African-Americans, just 8.2%
of the teachers are African-Americans; while 9.9% of the students
are Hispanic, only 2.9% of the teachers are Hispanic. The middle
school level has the highest representation of African-American
principals (9.3%) and Hispanic principals (2.1%). But at the highest
levels of K-12 administration and policy making, namely the high
school principal, the superintendent and the school board, minorities
are even more likely to be missing. Only 4.6% of the high school
administrators are minorities, and among the nation's school board
members, 3.4% of the members are minorities (Bell & Chase, 1993).
Similarly in private and public postsecondary institutions, the
number of African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians are
smaller proportions of faculty, presidents, and board members than
the students they represent. Asians who comprise 4% of students
in postsecondary institutions and 4.7% of the faculty, are an exception
to this pattern.
Although women comprise a majority of the nation's public school
teaching force, most school administrators are White males, and
at the highest level in public school administration, the superintendency,
there seems to be a great deal of resistance to gender and minority
integration (Bell & Chase, 1993). This is true despite the increased
reservoir of highly and suitably qualified women.
Race /Ethnic Stratification: Proportion of Leaders/Faculty/Students/Board
3% Other Min
.8% Native Amer
1% NatAmer 8
Source: Bell & Chase, "The Underrepresentation of Women in School
Leadership," in Catherine Marshall (ed.), The New Politics of
Race and Gender, 1993.
Barriers Impeding Change
Kanter (1977) suggested that uncertainty in the organization makes
homogeneity of the management group important to its members. Having
studied corporate organizational structure, she concluded that the
higher level of management in the organizational hierarchy, the
more discretion the occupants have in performing their job responsibilities
and the more unclear the criteria for determining their successes.
Therefore, management seeks to fill its ranks, particularly at the
highest level of management, with those persons that best fit the
existing norm. Kanter showed that often those whose social characteristics
are different from the management group are clustered in positions
that have well-defined criteria for determining success or they
served as experts rather than decision makers. Wheatley (1979) adapted
Kanter's theory to public schools and postulated that this attempt
by management to reduce uncertainty by requiring homogeneity in
its management group placed constraints on all teachers and had
definite negative implications for women and minorities. This theory
helps explain the career patterns for minorities that has been identified
by Valverde and Brown (1988). They noted that minority administrators
are assigned to special programs and schools with large concentrations
of minority students. Research on African-American superintendents
has also shown that they are often appointed to systems with inadequate
financial resources (Scott, 1980, 1990; Revere, 1987; Sizemore,
1986) or districts with a large concentration of minority students
who are economically disadvantaged and have low achievement test
scores (Moody, 1983; Townsel & Banks, 1975). Furthermore, research
by Revere (1987) and Sizemore (1986) found that African-American
superintendents who are women are found clustered in and around
Hugh J. Scott (1980), the first African-American Superintendent
of the Washington, DC school district, noted that when urban districts
became fiscally over burdened and the students they serve are racial
minorities, White superintendents are reluctant to take the positions.
He predicted over a decade ago:
The expansion in the ranks of black superintendents will be related
to whites not wanting to deal with the engrossing problems of cities.
Black superintendents will inherit the effect of increased societal
deterioration, unabated decline in academic achievement, deficient
financial resources, higher percentages of black students and students
from low-income families, a majority of black activists on the school
board, a large number of blacks in the community and demands from
vocal blacks in the community (p.188).
But in the South, these kinds of employment patterns did not begin
until after the Supreme Court desegregation ruling in 1954. According
to the research of Coffin (1972), during the 1960s the number of
African-American high school principals in 13 southern and border
states actually dropped over 90%, and the decline of elementary
principals could have been even greater. This loss had an overwhelming
effect on the African-American community, because the school principals
were often the most prominent citizens in the community. The loss
of these role models create a leadership vacuum in these communities
that has not since been recovered.
Ortiz (1982) used the social science theories of socialization
and role to provide a means for understanding the occupational and
organization participation of women and minorities in school settings.
She defined socialization as those changes which occur in persons
as they participate in an organization and concluded that minorities
and women do not interface with the school organization in the same
manner as white administrators. She explained this difference in
part by the placement of women and minorities in special projects
and schools with minority populations.
She noted the importance of principals and other key administrators
in this socialization process. These educators are the gatekeepers
and provide the socialization opportunities for aspiring administrators
to progress. Valverde's research (1974) agreed with this, and also
found that minorities are excluded from administrative positions
mainly because they are not sponsored. It is evident that since
only 4.6% of the secondary principals and 4.2% of the superintendents
are Native Americans, Asian, African-American and Hispanic and only
7.6% of the secondary principals and 5.6% of superintendents are
women, the numbers of women and minorities in the gatekeeping positions
are simply not equal to the task of sponsoring and socializing women
and minorities into educational administrative positions in any
Another set of explanations for the underrepresentation of women
and minorities in educational administration centers on public policy
trends and their effect on equity. Clark and Astuto (cited in Bell
& Chase, 1993) explained that after 1980 the attention paid
to equity was replaced by a focus on excellence. This change is
exemplified in the 1983 report of the National Commission on Excellence
in Education, A Nation at Risk which focused on learner outcomes
and the need for excellence while disregarding the issue of equity.
The education reform debate, which began in the middle eighties,
also ignores issues of equity. In fact, a content analysis of 138
articles on this educational reform movement shows that gender equity
occupied less than 1% of the articles (Sadker, Sadker, & Steindam,
Ragins and Sundstrom's (1989) synthesis of the literature on power
and gender in organizations provides a useful model for understanding
the underrepresentation of women and minorities in administration.
Ragins and Sundstrom define factors for analysis in terms of individual
factors, interpersonal factors, organizational factors and societal
factors. They also note while there can be a great deal of overlapping
in these factors, the larger aggregations, (societal and organizational)
have a stronger impact on the smaller aggregations (interpersonal
and individual). This analysis is consistent with the work of Yeakey,
Johnston, and Adkison (1986) who summarized the importance of these
"larger aggregations:" The larger body of organizational literature
suggests, irrespective of attitudes and training program, that no
real change will occur until it is accompanied by broader societal
change. That is, the basic problem of the exclusion of minorities
and women from administrative positions is the subordinate role
of women and minorities in all parts of society (p. 137).
It seems that while organizational theory may reveal implicit prejudices
as well as informal rules and practices that exclude women and minorities
from educational administration, the constraints external to the
organization may have a more powerful effect on equity.
Recent Demographic and Educational Trends
This gender and racial stratification in public school administration
is becoming more striking and disturbing as the demographics of
this country change. Statistics (Feistritzer, 1990) show that the
number of White teachers who will be teaching people who are racially
or ethnically different from themselves will continue to rise dramatically.
This is not only because of the changing demo-graphic picture in
this country which forecasts that the minority population in United
States will increase from 30% to 38% between 1990 and 2010 (Hodgkinson,
1991) but also because of the reduced number of people of color,
who are entering teacher preparation programs (Feistritzer, 1990).
Corresponding to an anticipated student population increase is
a projected need to hire more teachers and administrators. The National
Center for Education Statistics (1988) reports that the demand for
new teachers is expected to increase by more than 35% before stabilizing
in 1995, with most of the increase occurring at the secondary level
where the increase is estimated at 80%. The demand for hiring new
administrators is more difficult to estimate due to the scarcity
of national survey data on administrator turnover, but a 1988 study
by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)
reported that 35% of current high school principals were 50 years
of age or older, suggesting that a substantial number of high school
principals will be eligible for retirement in the next 10 to 15
years. And the data indicate that the average age of high school
principals is higher in larger school districts and communities;
a fact that will have implications for the hiring of women and minorities,
who have previously been more successful in being selected for these
jobs (Pounder, 1990).
But filling numbers, quotas and targets with certain types of administrators
is not the answer to the equity issues in educational administration.
Einstein's maxim that we can't solve problems with the same intelligence
we had when we created them certainly can be applied to this complex
issue of equity in educational administration. Just as corporate
America is using new paradigms to accomplish the enormous task of
redefining the production and distribution of goods and services
in a free-market global economy (Senge, 1991; Peters, 1988; Wheatley,
1992: Block, 1991), so educational leaders need to reach out to
each other and free themselves of some of the constraints that traditional
assumptions have imposed on the definition of educational leadership.
A part of these traditional assumptions centers on the perceived
need by those at the highest level of administration and policy-making
to define leadership in terms of homogeneity and control.
The importance of educational leaders trained to value diversity
and see the need to expand their view of reality should not be minimized.
If this nation is to survive as a democratic society which is competitive
in the international arena, the full participation of all its citizens
is necessary. This participation is dependent to a large degree
on the ability of educational leaders to create systems that celebrate
the multifaceted possibilities existing within schools today and
see differences as a "valuable resource for enriching the tradition
of democratic pluralism" (Giroux, 1994). These are the kind of leaders
who will have skills in "empowering students who typically struggle
in schools (e.g., students of color, different ethnicities, students
with disabilities, students of lower social classes)" (Capper &
To be this kind of leader and have access to the leadership roles
in educational administration in the twenty-first century will be
an exciting venture. Here are some tips for equal access and treatment
in educational administration.
Tips for Success
Know Yourself. The most important ingredient for success is honest
and objective evaluation of your strengths and abilities as well
as your aspirations. This self-assessment is a continual process
which helps you understand your strengths and abilities so that
you can put your energies where your talents and interests are.
Be Prepared. Credentials and work experiences are an important
part of success in educational administration. Be selective about
the preparation program you chose; enroll in a preparation program
that will best help prepare you for the job of an educational administrator.
As you are working on your credentials, set realistic goals for
yourself and seek work experiences that will enable you to be a
qualified candidate for leadership positions.
Analyze and Strategize. Analyze your career situations and strategize
your career moves so that each move will maximize the potential
for achieving your goals. Don't lower your own expectation for yourself;
make career decisions based on the vision that you have for yourself.
Negative Work Experiences. Work at turning negative experiences
into positive factors to be utilized in reaching your goals. Negative
experiences give you information that can be useful to you and to
others; these kinds of experiences have been used by many as a modus
operandum for high motivation, determination and a set of survival
behaviors that dispel illusions and help elicit change.
Critical Factors Affecting Advancement. Be aware of three critical
factors that affect advancement: structural barriers, role compatibility
and organizational fit. In order to be the right person at the right
place at the right time and to get the job you want, critically
analyze how structural barriers (those barriers that are in place
in the organization), role compatibility (the fit of your talents
and the needs of the organization) and organizational fit (how well
you fit into the structure of the organization) will impact your
Affiliate. Don't be trapped by historic divisions between races
and genders; join state and national professional groups (i.e. National
Association of Secondary School Principals, NASSP; American Association
of School Administrators, AASA; Association of Supervision and Curriculum
Development, ASCD) that include people from various groups, classes,
Share Goals. No one can be successful in a vacuum. It takes support
from others as well as support to others to be successful. Establish
"win-win" relationships; that is, relationships that are supportive
for both parties. These are the kinds of relationships in which
you can share goals, be a mentor and establish networking ties.
Find a Mentor and Be a Mentor. A mentor is a person who you want
to emulate; it is someone you respect not only for the position
they hold but because of the skills they use to successfully execute
their responsibilities in that position. As you learn from a mentor,
you also learn by being a mentor; your personal growth will be enhanced
if you also become a mentor to someone else.
Network. Networking is an information giving and receiving system.
It is the process of developing and using contacts for information,
advice and support (Duvall, 1980). These kinds of contacts are very
useful in accomplishing your goals.
There is a fairly close relationship among sharing goals, mentoring
and networking. Mentoring and networking can form a comfortable overlap.
The sharing of information, the benefits of mutual support, the potential
for tutelage and guidance are all features common to sharing goals,
mentoring and networking (Swoboda & Millar, 1986).
set challenging task/performance standard
provide needed information
chance to observe/learn by association
arrange administrative experience
advise on salary negotiations
support and encouragement
encourage risk taking
help formulate career plan
act as sounding board
facilitate move from classroom
arrange access to other administrators
provide feedback on progress
Pavan (1987) lists mentoring functions that show the importance
of mentoring and the ways in which mentoring can be effective. Table
3 shows these mentoring functions which are divided into career
functions and psychosocial functions. The career functions of a
mentor deal with how mentors can help advance your career; the psychosocial
functions deal with how mentors can give social and psychological
support to you as you develop career plans and move from the classroom
to roles in administration.
As educators reach out to each other in these kinds of ways, they
will be better prepared to meet the challenge of leadership in tomorrow's
schools not with fear, anxiety, frustration or discussion only of
standards in the traditional way, but with the expectation of a
celebration as they work together to improve education to meet the
needs of a pluralistic population.
Bell, C. S. & Chase, S. E. (1994). The underrepresentation
of women in school leadership. In C. Marshall, (ed.) The new
politics of race and gender. Washington, DC: Palmer Press.
Block, P. (1991). The empowered manager: Positive political
skills at work. San Francisco:Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Capper, C. A. & Jamison, M. T. (1993). Let the buyer beware:
Total quality management and educational research and practice.
Educational Researcher 22(8), 25-30.
Coffin, G. C. (1972). The black school administrator and how he's
being pushed to extinction. American School Board Journal, 159(11),
Duvall, B. (1980). Networking. Paper presented at the Annual
Meeting of the Speech Communication Association, New York, NY.
Feistritzer, C. E. (1988). Profile of teachers in the U.S.-1990.
Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Information.
Giroux, H. A. (1993). Living dangerously: Multiculturalism and
the politics of difference. New York: Peter Lang Publishing,
Hodgkinson, H. (1991). Reform versus reality. Phi Delta Kappa,
Kanter, R. M. (1977). Men and women in the corporation.
New York: Basic Books.
Moody, C.D. (1973). The black superintendent. School Review,
National Association of Secondary School Principals. (1992). Developing
school leaders: A call for collaboration. Reston, VA: Author.
National Association of Secondary School Principals. (1988). High
school leaders and their schools. Reston, VA: Author.
National Center for Education Statistics. (1988). The condition
of education: Elementary and secondary education. volume 1.
Washington, DC: US Department of Education, OERI.
Ortiz, F. I. (1982). Career patterns in education: Women, men,
and minorities in public school administration. New York: Praeger.
Pavan, B. N. (1987, Winter). Mentoring certified aspiring and incumbent
female and male public school administrators. Journal of Educational
Equity and Leadership, 7(4) 318-331.
Perkins, L. M. (1989). The history of blacks in teaching: Growth
and decline within the profession. In D. Warren (Ed.), American
teachers: Histories of a profession at work (pp. 344-369). New
Peters, T. (1988). Thriving on chaos: Handbook for a management
revolution. New York: Alfred A. Knoff.
Pounder, D. G. (1990). Educational megatrends and increased
female leadership in schools. Paper presented at the 1990 University
Council for Educational Administration, Pittsburgh, PA.
Ragins, B. R. & Sundstrom, E. (1989). Gender and power in organizations:
A longitudinal perspective. Psychological Bulletin, 105(1),51-33.
Revere, A. B. (1987). Black women superintendents in the United
States 1984-85. Journal of Negro Education, 56(4), 510-520.
Sadker, M., Sadker, D., Steindam, S. (1989). Gender equity and
educational reform. Educational Leadership, 46, 44-47.
Scott, H. J. (1980). The Black superintendent: Messiah or scapegoat?
Washington, DC: Howard University Press.
Scott, H J. (1990). Views of Black school superintendents on black
consciousness and professionalism. Journal of Negro Education,
Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline. New York: Doubleday.
Shakeshaft, C. (1989). Women in educational administration
(updated edition). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Sizemore, B. A. (1986). The limits of the black superintendency.
Journal of Educational Equity and Leadership, 6(3), 180-208.
Swoboda, M. J. & Millar, S. B. (1986). Networking-mentoring:
Career strategies of women in academic administration. Journal of
the National Association of Women Deans. Administrators and Counselors,
Townsel, C. W. & Banks, L. A. (1975). The urban school administrator:
A black perspective. Journal of Negro Education, 44(3), 421A31.
Valverde, L. A. (1974). Succession socialization: Its influences
on school administration candidates and its implication to the exclusion
of minorities from administration (Project 3-O813). Washington,
DC: National Institute of Education.
Valverde, L. A. & Brown, F. (1988). Influences on leadership
development among racial and ethnic minorities. In N.J. Boyan (ed.).
Handbook of research of educational administration (pp. 143-158).
New York: Longman.
Wheatley, M. J. (1992). Leadership and the new science.
San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Wheatley, M. J. (1979). The impact of opportunity and power
structure in schools: Why women don't become administrators.
Cambridge, MA: Goodmeasure.
Linda Hampton-Wesson is Chair of the Department of Educational
Administration, Research and Foundations at Youngstown State University
in Youngstown, Ohio. E-mail: email@example.com
AWL Journal Home Page
AWL Journal Volume
1, Number 2, Winter 1998