Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. David Cowden

Second Advisor

Dr. Uldis Smidchens

Third Advisor

Dr. Lois Hirst

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Patrick Jenlink


The educational system in the United States, although staffed by an equal proportion of men and women in teaching roles, is administered predominantly by men. Women are represented in fewer than 5% of our nation’s schools in the role of superintendent, and only 10% of the high schools are administered by women principals.

The purpose of this study was to expand the research on the factors that facilitate the attainment of key leadership positions for women within the public school, and to determine differences in access between the positions of secondary principal and superintendent.

A total of 78 female administrators, 83% of the population, have provided insight into demographic backgrounds and self-perceived factors that facilitated the attainment of their position of leadership in Michigan's public schools. This study contains self-perceived personal history factors; educational background and experience factors; networks, mentors, role models, achievement motivation, and attitudes toward sex discrimination, sex-role stereotyping within the career path; and attitudes toward the myths and generalizations that explain the underrepresentation cf women in school leadership as they relate to attainment of the position of superintendent and secondary principal.

Analysis of data from a survey instrument containing selfperceived questionnaire statements regarding factors that facilitated the attainment of an administrative position, revealed differences between the two populations in three areas. Superintendents perceived that female administrators who had the influence of working mothers as role models were more achievement motivated and likely to succeed in attaining an administrative position. Secondary principals placed more value on "being in the right place at the right time" as a factor in attainment than did the superintendents. Secondary principals also placed more value on interpersonal skills as an attainment factor than did superintendents. Perseverance, possession of advanced degrees, successful performance in previous positions, and use of mentors were cited in narrative form by respondents from both groups as key factors in facilitating the attainment of their positions.

Demographic differences between groups were noted in a disproportionate number of doctoral degrees among superintendents. Secondary principals also demonstrated general disinterest in seeking the position of superintendent.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access