- Despite the fact that women comprised 76% of teachers, 51% of principals and 78% of central office staff during the 2011-12 school year, they occupied just 27% of superintendent positions nationwide — a stark view of the gender gap in district leadership.
- Education Week reports there is overt sexism when it comes to superintendent searches and subtler systemic barriers created by decades of male dominance in the position that has led to expectations about the proper path to the top job and limited work-life balance, as well as a deficit in female mentors.
- Once women are in superintendent positions, they can face more scrutiny over their leadership style and salary than men might — even though they tend to bring important experience to the role, such as having spent so much time as teachers and principals.
School districts face diversity challenges from a number of angles. There aren’t enough women in superintendent roles, relative to their dominance throughout the rest of the institution. There also aren’t enough people of color anywhere in school districts, on average. More than half of the U.S. student population is not white, yet the vast majority of teachers are. For this mismatch, school districts can say there is not enough of a supply pipeline to make any rapid change. When it comes to gender and superintendents, that excuse doesn’t work.
Districts may have to get creative about making the superintendent’s position more attractive to a wider range of candidates. Lowering expectations about the number of hours worked, delegating more tasks throughout the central office and providing more opportunities to get into schools and classrooms all could help, based on surveys of female educators in the pipeline.