Women Secondary Principals in Texas: A Longitudinal Study of Differences in Personal, Professional, Leadership, and School Characteristics
Marczynski, Jean Christina
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Despite movement toward equity given the institutionalization of affirmative action programs and policies, researchers document continued underrepresentation of women principals in secondary schools. Gender equity in the high school principalship possesses the key to unlocking many problems including poor outcomes for high school students to low representation of women superintendents. Researchers call for examination of progress for women in educational administration to formulate more equity responsive practices and policies. Research was conducted to describe and analyze differences between women secondary principals in Texas 2011 and 1998 on measures of (a) personal and professional characteristics, (b) leadership styles and practices, and (c) school organization. Forty-two percent of the 117 surveys sent to a representative sample of women principals in 2011 were returned and then merged with data gathered from a comparable sample surveyed in 1998. Fifty-three percent of the respondents in 2011 identified as Anglo European, 20% were Latina, 18% were African American, and 5% chose Native American. Women secondary principals in 2011 were significantly more diverse in terms of ethnicity and age but no differences were noted in professional characteristics. Three-quarters of women in both years were found to possess a high task and high relationship leadership style; however a significant minority had shifted to a high task with low relationship style in 2011, which is indicative of a more directive leadership style. A significant and large reduction in leadership adaptability was observed. Women principals in 2011 reported high agreement and frequency of distributing various leadership functions, particularly for trust in team members, taking actions in the best interest of students, and support for the welfare of teachers. The schools led by the women principals in 2011 were found to possess higher percentages of students qualified as economically disadvantaged and were more urban. Finally, half of the schools in 2011 were rated Recognized by the Texas Education Agency, which was significantly higher than the 16% in 1998. The significance of study findings center on observed progress toward equity and women's leadership effectiveness. Recommendations for training, recruitment, and hiring practices and policies are forwarded in the conclusions.