Organizations should consider implementing strategies to increase the number of women leaders in public education, an industry that continues to present a sizeable gender gap in school district leadership.
Approximately 75 percent of educators in public education in the United States are women, yet only 24 percent of the superintendents are women. Texas statistics show an even wider gap; 76 percent of Texas teachers are women, but only 19 percent of superintendents are women (see Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Employed Teacher Demographics 2015-16 through 2021-2022).
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the numbers are more encouraging when comparing the gender of campus leadership. In 2021, 56 percent of U.S. K-12 school principals were women, up from 52 percent in 2011. In Texas, TEA reports 67 percent of principals are women according to the Employed Principal Demographics 2015-16 through 2021-22.
These numbers show there is an ample supply of women educators available to advance to leadership positions.
Understanding some of the barriers to women attaining top leadership positions in education can help organizations make changes.
Removing, or at least reducing, barriers for women leaders is vital for leadership advancement to occur. The TASB Member Center article This is Why There are Fewer Female Superintendents notes several reasons keeping women out of top leadership positions, such as:
- Gender biases
- Difficult work-life balance
- Lack of mentors
- Subconscious preferences by school boards to hire male superintendents
- Self-removal from the pursuit of an advanced leadership position
Barriers can be minimized when women are encouraged, supported, and provided strategic leadership opportunities.
Systematically implementing an array of strategies to support and mentor women is key. The problem is not a lack of capable women leaders, it’s not having systems in place that allow, encourage, and support women to advance to top district leadership positions.
Some strategies that can be implemented include the following:
- Revamp hiring practices to reduce biases by providing training to school board trustees and hiring managers.
- Develop pipelines by creating “grow your own” leadership programs taking advantage of the large female workforce that is available in your organization.
- Create leadership academies that offer structured mentoring and networking opportunities.
- Provide a family-friendly workplace by accepting flexible work schedules, allowing children to attend events, and honoring different family configurations.
- Support women who are already in leadership positions (e.g., principals and central office leaders) by offering professional development, networking opportunities, and executive coaching.
- Encourage current female leaders to inspire the next generation by mentoring as well as being part of the recruitment process.
- Ensure pay is transparent and fair.
Women are just as likely as men to aspire to be leaders. Providing a robust support system that allows women to advance to top leadership positions can significantly reduce the gender gap between the female-dominated workforce and the male-dominated leadership positions.
The Time is Now: A New Playbook for Women in Educational Leadership, from Women Leading ED, is available to assist organizations with implementing strategies to promote women leaders.
Cheryl Hoover joined HR Services in 2018. She assists with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. During Hoover’s public school career, she served as an executive director of curriculum and principal leadership, executive director of human resources, principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach.
Hoover earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and obtained her master’s degree from Texas State University. She is a certified PHR.
Subscribe to HRX
Stay up to date with all the latest HR news and trends by joining the HRX mailing list!