Exit experiences of female superintendents in Northwest Texas: A case study
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The public school superintendency has customarily been a professional field that is vastly dominated by men. Although the number of women who have attained the superintendency is increasing, their progress has been modest. Issues that characterize and define women’s experiences in the public school superintendency need to be studied in order to explain the shortage of female superintendents that continues to be pervasive in our society. This case study explored the exit experiences of three female superintendents in Northwest Texas. The purpose of this study was to describe their experiences in the superintendency, to establish reasons they left the superintendency, and to determine if those reasons were gender related. The study used a qualitative methodology, employed a case study approach, and utilized the framework of Shakeshaft’s Six Stages of Research on Women in Administration to examine this phenomenon. The data was collected through interviews, a focus group interview, and archival data. The results were interpreted utilizing a feminist theory lens. Three women who exited the superintendency were purposefully selected to participate in the study. Results showed that the experiences and reasons for exiting of the three former female superintendents were similar to the experiences and reasons for exiting of men superintendents: school board relations, public criticism, time/stress management, political and financial worries, moving to a better position, and retirement. However, their experiences in the superintendency and reasons for exiting were at times compounded by gender issues such as gender discrimination in the workplace. This study increases the knowledge base concerning the lack of female superintendents in Northwest Texas, describes experiences of female superintendents in Northwest Texas in the superintendency, and deepens the understanding of the factors that influenced their reasons to exit the superintendency. The study also contributed information for women who are considering or who are entering the superintendency position as well as for those who are preparing women to enter the superintendency position. Future research recommendations include a need for additional qualitative studies of female superintendents in geographical areas which have historically hired or retained few women. Future research could also be conducted to explore the selection process for prospective female superintendents in Texas. Furthermore, additional study could be initiated to discover the extent and reasons for the imbalance of the concentration of female superintendents in Texas. Why does there appear to be more women superintendents along the I-35 corridor than in regions located in the Panhandle and West Texas? Recommendations for superintendent preparation programs include more fully preparing women for the experiences that females face in the superintendency. The findings also indicate implications for professional development of school boards. Similar professional development for superintendent search firm “headhunters” would also be beneficial.