What Influences Qualified Women Administrators in Virginia to remain in Division Level Positions while others Pursue the Position of Superintendent? – A Qualitative Study

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Virginia Tech


In education, women administrators are underrepresented in leadership positions, especially as superintendent. The study examined the following: characteristics and experiences of women superintendents to those of women administrators who aspire to be superintendent and to those women who have decided not to pursue the superintendency; the factors influencing women administrators' decisions to pursue or not pursue the position of superintendent; and the impact of identified factors on the decisions made by study participants. This qualitative multiple-subject study with an interview protocol was designed to consider the historical perspective of women in education, characteristics of women administrators, and a feminist poststructuralist framework; it included the identification of internal and external barriers and criteria for enhancing the advancement of women administrators. The study addressed the following research questions:

  1. How do the experiences and characteristics of acting women superintendents compare to those of women aspiring to the superintendency and to those of women administrators who choose not to seek the position of superintendent?
  2. What factors influence women administrators' decisions to pursue or not pursue the position of superintendent?

The seven findings suggested that 1) educational leaders influenced decisions to become administrators; 2) style of leadership, method of conflict resolution, and decision-making practice is collaborative; 3) interpersonal skills, good communication, and approachability are (p.204-205) skills required for the superintendency; 4) the decision to pursue the superintendency is influenced by a number of factors, including role models, mentors, and the intensity of the position; 5) balancing a career with family responsibilities is potential barriers for women seeking the superintendency; 6) negative perceptions of female leaders were potential barriers for women administrators seeking and obtaining the position of superintendent; 7) individual school boards and communities influence how women and men are viewed as leaders and whether or not women superintendents are perceived differently. This study has identified implications for future studies and for advancing the careers of women administrators by eliminating barriers, challenges and negative perceptions regarding their pursuit of the position of superintendent.



female administrators, women in education, female superintendents, male superintendents, underrepresented, gender equity, Leadership