• by Yojani Fatima Hernandez • IDRA Newsletter • May 1998 •
Much has been written about the glass ceiling – that invisible, seemingly impenetrable barrier that blocks women from progressing to the highest levels of management. In the 1990s, it seems that women are making great strides in the struggle for equal rights. But even today, the gap between men and women in administrative positions is disturbing, particularly in the area of education.
In the state of Texas, men significantly outnumber women in all of the prominent professions in society, including architecture, engineering, law and most areas of management and administration. Yet, the male dominance in administration in the field of education is specifically unusual because women make up 77.3 percent of all teachers, the group from which school administrators are drawn (Texas Education Agency, 1998). The lack of proportional representation of women combines with an even greater lack of representation by people of color. This makes the picture for minority women even more distressing.
Since its passage in 1972, Title IX has had a profound impact on changing attitudes, assumptions, behavior and understanding about how sexual stereotypes can limit educational opportunities. We now know that gender is a poor predictor of one’s proficiency, capability or intelligence. There have been changes for women in the areas of leadership and management in public schools. However, what still holds true about public education is that, while women dominate the field, they hold few leadership positions.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently reported facts about women in education fields in Texas in the 1997-98 school year, including the following.
- Women represent three-fourths (75.6 percent) of the 493,440 public education employees.
- Women of color represent one-fourth (25.5 percent) of public education employees.
- Women of color represent 1.4 percent of superintendents; 9.1 percent of assistant superintendents; 6 percent of principals; and 9 percent of assistant principals.
- More than half (56.5 percent) of the female teachers in public schools worked in early childhood and elementary schools. TEA reports that, of the 111,284 teachers that worked in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and elementary schools, 90 percent were women in the 1997-98 school year.
- Almost two-thirds (62.1 percent) of male public education employees are working in secondary schools. They make up 39.4 percent of all secondary teachers.
- The majority of the administrators in the Texas public school system are male. Of the 16,536 administrators (public school administrators include instructional officers, principals, assistant superintendents and superintendents), 50.1 percent are male. Of the 993 superintendents in Texas, 90.3 percent are male.
Yet in the past eight years, there has been some progress for women in the area of administrative and leadership positions in Texas public schools (see box).
The number of women in public education in Texas has stayed relatively the same while the number of administrators has shown an optimistic increase. In the 1990-91 school year, women comprised 78.5 percent of the teachers in public education but only 36 percent of its administrative leadership positions. Seven years later, women still dominate the teaching profession (77.3 percent) while holding almost half (49.9 percent) of the administrative positions (TEA, 1998).
In the area of principalships – an important leadership position in Texas public schools – there has been significant change. In the 1990-91 school year, 36.9 percent of the principals were women. In the 1997-98 school year, the percentage of women principals increased to 50.4 percent.
Little change has taken place in superintendent positions. In the 1985-86 school year, 2 percent of the superintendents were female (Cantu, 1996). In the 1997-98 school year, 9.7 percent of the superintendents were women (TEA, 1998).
It simply does not seem possible that 77.3 percent of teachers are excluded from the superintendency based on a gender bias. It would seem that is the only conclusion when only 22.7 percent of teachers are considered qualified to be administrators (TEA, 1998).
In comparing 1990 to 1998 statistics to the earlier figures about males and females in public education, most observations continue to be true (see box). Women still make up most of the teachers and support staff personnel. Men still dominate the high administrative positions in public education. It has taken 13 years to increase the percentage of women in administrative positions in public education from 29 percent (1984-85) to 49.9 percent (1997-98) (TEA, 1998). Although women in administrative positions are no longer considered an oddity, the numbers of women in these roles is far smaller than is acceptable.
Chase, S.E. and C. Bell. “How Search Consultants Talk about Female Superintendents,” The School Administrator (February 1994).
Hammer, C. Public and Private School Principals: Are There Too Few Women? (Washington, D.C.: NCES National Center for Educational Statistics, January 1994) Publication Number 94-192.
Lerner, L. “Research Suggests the Glass Ceiling Endures,” Internet posting. (Commission on the Status of Women, October 1997).
Texas Education Agency. “Texas Public School Districts Including Charter Schools, Table 1 – Fall 1990-98,” FTE Counts by Personnel Types and Subtypes by Sex and Ethnicity – State Total (Austin, Texas: Texas Education Agency, 1998).
Yojani Hernández is a research assistant in the IDRA Division of Research and Evaluation. Comments and questions may be sent to her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©1998, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the May 1998 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]