Extraordinary Women in Texas: A Phenomenological Study of Mexican American Female Superintendents
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Women remain underrepresented in the superintendency with even less Mexican American female representation. At the time of this study, there were 1, 144 superintendents in Texas, 911 were male, and 233 were female. Of the current 233 female superintendents only 14 were Mexican American. Research on female superintendents has focused on studying women as a group. These studies do not explain the underrepresentation of Mexican American women in the superintendency. Mexican American women as a group are not addressed in academia and go unnoticed. This qualitative study focused exclusively on Mexican American female superintendents and extended beyond casual analysis by seeking out their voices and their personal experiences. The study addressed the following questions: What have been the experiences of Mexican American women while seeking and operating within the superintendency? What factors motivate Mexican American women to seek the superintendent position? And, what strategies and supports are available to Mexican American females as they seek and retain a superintendent's position?
This in-depth phenomenological study explored the experiences of seven Mexican American female superintendents in Texas. Multiple methods of data collection were used, demographic surveys, face to face interviews and observations, field notes and reflective journaling by the researcher. The primary source of information for this study came from the personal narratives of the seven Mexican American female superintendents. Each participant presented a portrait of their personal experiences and their stories will provide a deeper understanding of the individual experiences of Mexican American female superintendents.
There are distinct patterns in the location and types of school districts that Mexican American female superintendents are being selected to lead. The women demonstrated competence in leading what some may consider challenging school districts. Their success is attributed to their personal drive, motivation and commitment for improving educational opportunities for all children, regardless of social economic status and ethnicity.
The participants of the study shared a number of common characteristics and personal traits. They were Mexican American women serving as the district leader in a public school district with a predominately Hispanic student enrollment that had a history of instability. They demonstrated personal attributes of self-efficacy and confidence, determination and perseverance, and commitment and dedication. Each woman had over 20 years of experience in public education. They differed in the number of superintendencies they had held, the total years of practice as a superintendent, and the levels of education they had attained.
Their life history uncovered personal experiences associated with ethnicity and/or gender biases. These personal experiences occurred during their formative years and/or during their ascension to the superintendency as educational administrators at the campus and district level. The findings from this study corroborated the importance of mentorship, sponsorship, networking, and social capital in gaining access to the superintendency. The additional support systems that these superintendents relied on while operating the superintendency included support from family and professional colleagues. These support mechanisms assisted them in coping with cultural incongruence and school board affairs. The strategies and skills that the participants depicted in this study will provide aspiring Mexican American female superintendents a foundation for preparing themselves for their search for the superintendent position.