Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Donna Breault - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Philo Hutcheson

Third Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Esposito

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Debra Harden


ABSTRACT OVERCOMING BARRIERS: WOMEN IN THE SUPERINTENDENCY by Claire M. Miller Women currently represent the largest number of teachers in the United States but remain underrepresented in the superintendent position. This suggests that the superintendency has been influenced by patriarchy. If women are to break through the barriers that prevent them from attaining a superintendency, we will need to understand the social construction of the position and women superintendents’ experiences with barriers. What do women in the superintendency think about what it means to be one of a few women in a male-dominated occupation? How does gender consciousness play a role in the ability to examine and understand barriers? How do characteristics of the position interacting with gender? Literature is reviewed surrounding these questions and includes barriers with feminine expectations, career mobility, good old boy network, mentors, family obligations, and the selection process. A qualitative approach was used to examine the experiences of five female superintendents. Additionally, race was masked to protect the identities of the women. Patriarchy was identified as the central structure for understanding the women’s experiences with barriers. This study also sought to draw on the theoretical model of sociocultural explanations for the underrepresentation of women in the superintendency. This model analyzes gender differences and focuses on sex role stereotyping, career socialization, and women’s culture to describe women’s experiences. The findings indicate that women are beginning to overcome some of the barriers; however, many of them are still present. This inquiry is important because it allows us to examine the barriers within the superintendency in order to provide a new perspective to the body of literature that has historically been grounded in almost exclusively white, male, and heterosexist epistemologies. This new perspective includes methods to overcome the barriers rather than navigate them.