Women in the high school principalship: A study of leadership at three schools

Kimberly J Baxter, University of Texas at El Paso


This study is about women principals in Texas and their leadership in light of the current context of large high schools. Relatively few recent studies exist of women in the high school principalship since the passage of No Child Left Behind (2002). I attempt to provide insight into how the elements of gender and the contemporary context interact to produce individual experiences for three principals. ^ The purpose of this study is to provide a deep understanding of the ways in which gender and the modern context of schools interact to produce individual lived experiences for three female principals. This study shows what it means to be a female principal at a large high school in Texas. The analytical framework utilized for this study was Swidler’s (2001) concept of cultural repertoires. ^ The literature review includes a history of the principalship and a history of leadership by women in schools and other settings. The literature places the study in the context of both a changing principalship and changing experiences of gender. ^ Several conclusions resulted from the research. The women in the study operated within a cultural repertoire in three areas. They identified both positive and negative impacts of gender depending on the degree to which the characterization conflicted with their roles as principals. They engaged in both managerial and instructional leadership activities; they focused in their discussions more on the instructional activities as this was at the forefront of their challenges. They used both direct and inclusive styles of leadership depending on the circumstances at the time and which style would best accomplish their goals. This study points to a “new kind of principal” that is required to lead large high schools in the era of high stakes accountability. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Education, Administration|Education, Secondary

Recommended Citation

Baxter, Kimberly J, "Women in the high school principalship: A study of leadership at three schools" (2009). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3358888.