Career pathways and perceived barriers of women superintendents

Margaret Cutshaw Manuel, University of Texas at El Paso


This descriptive study was designed to ascertain the career pathways of women superintendents in the United States and the perceived barriers that influence their attainment of the superintendency. To facilitate the analyses of career experiences and choices made by women who attain the superintendency, a conceptual framework based on Betz and Fitzgerald's (1987) career choice model of college women was used. The following consolidated research questions guided the conduct of this study: What are the career pathways and perceived barriers of women superintendents?; What are the effects of age, ethnicity, size of school district, and gender composition of school boards on women superintendents' career pathways and perception of barriers? ^ The educational work experience of women was characterized by 11.5 years in teaching, 11.4 years in administration, 8.1 years in central office and 5.5 years as a superintendent. More than 61% of the respondents reported that their career path was uninterrupted by concerns related to their family. Approximately three-fourths acquired a superintendency within a year of actively seeking the position. A majority of women (57%) asserted that they aspired to the superintendency between the ages of 41–50. Approximately 62% reported that they had a mentor, however, more than 8 of 10 were men. Almost three-fourths of women superintendents reported that they had a role model, however, almost 79% were men. The primary sources of encouragement for women superintendents were themselves and colleague(s) (33% each). ^ The most common career pathway of women superintendents was teacher, elementary principal, central office. Women superintendent respondents indicated that for women in general, all twelve barriers were “somewhat important,” with the exception of the lack of mobility of family members, which was reported as an “important” barrier for women attaining the superintendency. Regarding the effect of age on the career pathways of women superintendents, the most common pathway for women in all age groups from 46 to 60 was teacher, elementary principal, central office. ^ Women superintendents over the age of 60 thought that the twelve barriers were greater impediments to women in general who aspired to the superintendency than did younger women. When specific barriers were analyzed, there were statistically significant differences among age groups on six barriers. Due to the small representation of minority women superintendents, the effect of ethnicity on both the career pathways of women superintendents and their perceptions of barriers could not be ascertained. (Abstract shortened by UMI.) ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Education, Administration|Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations

Recommended Citation

Manuel, Margaret Cutshaw, "Career pathways and perceived barriers of women superintendents" (2001). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3023411.