Women have difficulty advancing up the career ladder in many
professions. Education is no exception even though it is a
field heavily staffed by women. Most of the decision-making
administrative positions of superintendent, assistant
superintendent and principal are held by men.
Eighty-six percent of the elementary school teachers in New
Jersey are women. However, only eighteen percent of the
elementary school principals are women. The pattern persists
in higher administrative levels. Females have an 11% chance
of becoming a middle school principal, a 9% chance of becoming
a high school principal, a 9% chance of becoming an assistant
superintendent and a 4.5% chance of becoming a superintendent.
This situation will not improve in the near future mainly
because administrators in the position of hiring other
administrators to work with them prefer to choose people like
themselves. This is human nature. Since women are obviously
different from men, not only in appearance but also in the way
they think, it is difficult for men to choose them over their own
sex. There is even a name for this phenomena. It is called the
“old boy network.” As a result, women are denied the opportunity of contributing to the decision-making process and the
educational system is denied the special insights and experience
Dr. Cynthia Norris reported on the brain hemisphere
characteristics and creative leadership among selected
educational administrators in Tennessee. She studied 27
superintendents, 37 principals, and 39 supervisors chosen by a
panel of experts for their effective leadership, plus 12
superintendents chosen at random as a check. She was looking
for the combination of left-brain logical thinking and right-
brain intuitive thought that current theories hold is the best
for creative leaders.
The superintendents, all men, were strongly oriented toward
left hemisphere style and higher in technical rather than
conceptual skill. Principals, mostly men, exhibited a balance in
left-right brain dominance and a high level of innovation in their leadership and were highest in conceptual skill.
Supervisors, who were mostly women, were the most whole-brained
of the three groups studied and ranked highest in human
skills. Females exhibited a stronger tendency for the desired
whole-brained leadership style than the males in this study but
they had the least authority.
Dr. Norris concluded by suggesting that women in education
be given more line authority and decision-making roles because
they surpass men in the holistic approach they brought to
leadership. She also feels that in this new age of maximizing
human potential, the time has come to allow women the increased
opportunity to fill positions of authority in education.
Unless something changes, education is going to lose its
most valuable resource—intelligent, imaginative women. We are
not using the potential of the women who are already in the field
and since it is very difficult for women to break into the
administrative ranks, we will not be attracting women innovators
in the future.