Breaking the Glass Ceiling in the Superintendency: La Lucha of Latina Superintendents in Texas
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Women, and people who identify with marginalized groups, are familiar with the term glass ceiling—that invisible and seemingly impenetrable barrier that blocks them from succeeding to a higher or highest level of management. In education, it seemed that women were making great progress in the struggle for equality. But even today, the gap between men and women in the superintendency is disturbing, particularly in the area of Latinas attaining the superintendency position.
U.S. public schools have historically had an abundance of women who, as teachers, had an impact on the lives of children. Despite women’s presence in the classroom, women are underrepresented professionals in the superintendency. Researchers have noted the strengths women bring to the position of superintendent, such as current academic preparation, knowledge in curriculum and instruction, and ability to work with diverse groups. The Latino population is the fastest growing minority in the United States, but Latinas represent only 1% of the women in the superintendency. This scarcity of Latinas in top executive positions of school districts raises concerns of inclusion, representation, and equity.
This research was a phenomenological study on 3 Latinas who broke the glass ceiling and succeeded in attaining a superintendent position in a Texas public school district. The context for conducting this study is guided by a major question and subquestions:
- What are the conditions and relations that foster Latinas to aspire to and eventually become a superintendent?
- What are the sociohistorical and life experiences of Latina superintendents prior to attaining the superintendency?
- What structures and processes are in place within the community and educational systems to foster the success of Latinas as they ascend to the superintendency?
- How have race, ethnicity, and gender affected the pursuit of attaining the superintendency?
This study explored the phenomenon of underrepresentation of Latinas in the superintendency and uncovered, through the qualitative research, the conditions that contributed to the ascension of the three Latinas to the superintendency. Even though they worked in districts that ranged from small to large, from rural to urban areas, and despite their differences geographically in the state of Texas, demographically, and politically, their views about the superintendency were strikingly similar.