A qualitative examination of the career paths of female school superintendents in Virginia

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to determine how three female superintendents attained their positions given the notable underrepresentation of women in superintendency positions. The research questions to be investigated were: (1) What are the forces or factors that have assisted those three women who have become superintendent? (2) What are the forces or factors that have served as barriers in the process those three women went through in achieving appointments as superintendents? (3) What strategies did they use in overcoming barriers to their achievement of appointment as superintendent? (4) What situations or events have been beneficial to their achievement of appointment as superintendent?

A multiple-case study design and multiple data gathering methods were utilized in this study. The career paths of three women employed as public school superintendents in Virginia were investigated. A questionnaire was developed to collect data for the study. The instrument consisted of twenty-five questions with open-ended responses. Data were collected through interviews and document analysis to determine the barriers these female superintendents perceived, the strategies they employed to overcome barriers, and the factors which had an impact on their obtaining the position of superintendent. Material gathered during the interviews were transcribed and coded using the Ethnograph software program. Common patterns, themes and concepts emerged, and key statements and important stories shared by the participants were summarized. The researcher presented a descriptive narrative case study profile of each superintendent. Recommendations for further research were provided.

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