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Vol. 37 (2017)

What Women Know: Perceptions of Seven Female Superintendents

  • Polly Allred
  • Gerri Maxwell
  • Linda Skrla
June 22, 2017


An anomalous concentration of female superintendents in mostly rural South Texas prompted this inquiry. South Texas faces critical shortages in personnel due to impending retirement and turnover of existing school administrators and superintendents (Wesson & Marshall, 2012). It is difficult to recruit and retain the best talent necessary to solve tough school improvement challenges""high dropout rates, high poverty, low student achievement, and complex multi-cultural issues""in high needs, Hispanic majority, primarily rural school districts (Trevino Jr., Braley, Brown, & Slate, 2008; Wesson & Marshall, 2012). Krüger (2008) stated women are stronger educational leaders than men. Females seek and obtain leadership credentials for the express purpose of impacting education for students (Young & McLeod, 2001). Schools of all sizes and levels with female administrators achieved higher student success than schools with male administrators, according to a 7000 campus Texas study, in the 2006-2007 academic year (Roser, Brown, & Kelsey, 2009). In every ethnic group, women earn more doctoral degrees in education than men; women earn bachelors and masters degrees in education in proportion to their representation in the field; and women have more years of teaching experience than men (Shakeshaft, Brown, Irby, Grogan, & Ballenger, 2007). Women also outnumber men in education administration preparation programs (Petrie & Lindauer, 2001). Yet women are not ascending to the superintendency in proportion to their representation in the education profession (Shakeshaft et al., 2007). This naturalistic study of seven female superintendents in South Texas, including leaders in large and small rural districts, illuminated perceptions and experiences of female school leadership through portraiture and lent insight into common themes of aspiration and motivation.