Just 20% of superintendents are women, proof of a stubborn gender gap

Dive Brief:

  • While the vast majority of teachers are women, and at this point, more than half of principals are women, a gender gap remains at the top of the organizational structure in U.S. schools with just one in five districts being led by women.
  • The Houston Chronicle reports school boards have held onto biases about the managerial competency of women or their emotional capacity to run a district, which beyond leading to the small share of women in superintendent roles, it also contributes to the fact that female superintendents make less than their male peers and oversee fewer students, on average.
  • Women, who more often teach elementary school, generally take a longer path to the superintendent’s office by going through more leadership levels than men, who more often go straight from principal to superintendent, giving them faster access to the job that makes them seem most qualified in future searches.

Dive Insight:

The gender imbalance at the top of U.S. school districts is a classic case of the glass ceiling. The same phenomenon appears in higher education, where just one in four college presidents is female. Women have long outnumbered men in the proportion of students attending colleges and universities as well as the proportion of people getting advanced degrees.

Just as districts are considering new ways to recruit more teachers of color because they recognize the value diversity can bring to their schools, they should be thinking about the impact of the gender imbalance at the highest levels of leadership. In some cases, this is a pipeline issue, and districts would do well to help promising teacher leaders set themselves up for an eventual superintendent position.

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Filed Under: K12
Top image credit: Pixabay