Recent data from the South Carolina State Department of Education (2009) revealed that women constitute the majority of teachers (80%), principals (56%), and certified superintendents (51%). While these numbers point to a pool of highly qualified women with valuable educational experiences and insights, advanced degrees and coursework, and a high level of motivation, their representation in the superintendency (30%) lags behind that of men (70%) in South Carolina.
The purpose of this study was to determine the perceived career paths that supported the female's entry into the role of superintendent in South Carolina, skills which female superintendents believe may help advance career opportunities for women superintendents or women aspiring to the superintendency, and barriers which female superintendents perceive may restrict administrative opportunities for women superintendents or women aspiring to the superintendency.
This study used a descriptive research design, a quantitative research method. A survey questionnaire was sent electronically to all female superintendents in South Carolina to obtain data and to examine and address the three research questions. Results from this study were compared with results from the 2003 American Association of School Administrators National Study of U.S. Women Superintendents and Central Office Administrators.
The outcome revealed a striking number of similarities among women superintendents in South Carolina in regard to the research questions. Similarities shared included many personal and professional demographics, a strong background in elementary education, and a rare consensus on the critical skills that help advance opportunities for women. These skills included interpersonal skills, responsiveness to parents and community groups, and the ability to maintain organizational relationships. Moreover, the majority of these women followed a career path that most often included teacher, principal, central office/curriculum.
Distinct similarities were also noted among women superintendents in South Carolina and their national peers. One similarity included a consensus among all that a lack of mobility of family members continued to serve a barrier limiting administrative opportunities for women. Additionally, all concurred that school board members' perceptions of women continued to serve as a challenge. This study further revealed that while many women superintendents in South Carolina have similarities to their peers, both locally and nationally, others still remain outside the norm—particularly those who took a less traditional route to the superintendency. Other differences included the degree of mentorship and perceptions of roles. This study offers hope to female superintendent aspirants who have different experiences from their peers and to those who seek entrance into the superintendency through less traditional routes.
KEY WORDS Women superintendents, Women superintendents barriers, Underrepresentation women superintendents, Women superintendents skills, Women superintendents career paths, Women superintendents advancement