Women Superintendents in the Rural Midwest: Narratives of Challenges and Resistance
Women represent 76.5% of all teachers in U. S. public schools (Institute of Education Sciences, 2020). Yet, only 26.7% of superintendents leading districts are women (Tienken, 2021, p.19). Although women have made gains in leading schools in larger districts, the same trend is not evident in smaller, rural school systems, which describe the majority of school districts in the United States (AASA: The School Superintendents Association, 2017). Scholars commonly attribute this disparity to gender bias prevalent in rural cultures. Quinlan’s analyses (2013) underscored the gender inequality and sexism that women can face in rural contexts. To help address gender inequalities in educational leadership, schools, districts, and educational leaders must develop an awareness of specific structural and sociocultural barriers to the superintendency faced by women in rural contexts and take proactive steps to understand and mitigate those challenges. This study focuses on the narratives and lived experiences of women superintendents in rural school districts, and of women who aspire to the superintendency in a rural context. This qualitative study also explored the effects that COVID-19 has had on these women’s experiences as rural superintendents, an important aspect of their experience since the pandemic has disproportionally affected women in the United States (AAUW, 2020; Donovan and Labonte, 2020; Hilferty et al., 2021; Karageorge, 2020). This study can help women interested in pursuing careers as rural school district leaders to learn about those challenges and thus prepare themselves better to overcome them. Finally, this study aims to promote gender equity in rural K-12 systems to support women serving in district-level leadership roles in providing leadership models for all students, especially those who identify as female.
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium, School of Education and Health Sciences
Institutional Learning Goals
Diversity; Critical Evaluation of Our Times; Scholarship
"Women Superintendents in the Rural Midwest: Narratives of Challenges and Resistance" (2023). Stander Symposium Projects. 2802.
Presentation: 11:00-11:20 a.m., Roesch Library Collab Space