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Staying close to home: women’s life-choices and the superintendency

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Purpose

– The purpose of this paper is to examine the importance of lifestyle factors including geographical relocation, accommodation for dual earner careers, and availability of family or non-family domestic help on the career choices of women assistant superintendents and superintendents in school districts in the USA. Women’s access to the superintendency continues to make slow progress, a trend traditionally attributed to gender bias. However, working women increasingly make career choices based on perceptions of lifestyle and domestic responsibilities that may self-limit their access to positions that would further their careers.

Design/methodology/approach

– The study is set in Pennsylvania, where women occupy 26 percent of superintendents’ positions. Women superintendents and assistant superintendents in 2011-2012 were surveyed regarding their perceptions of the compatibility of the requirements of the position of superintendent with their lifestyle priorities.

Findings

– The responses of 109 respondents suggest that the importance they attach to lifestyle factors limit the positions to which they apply. Most respondents would not consider family relocation or long commutes to access positions that would further their career goals. Consideration of partners/spouses work and career needs was rated as of high importance in making career decisions, and the respondents managed domestic household themselves with little expectation or recourse to extended family support or paid domestic help.

Originality/value

– The findings suggest that the current demands and characteristics of the superintendency are at odds with lifestyle preferences of women qualified to hold the position, further exacerbating the effects of gender bias that maintain the lack of gender balance in educational decision making at the local level in the USA.
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Keywords: Administrators; Assistant superintendents; Careers; Commuting; Dual earning households; Educational administration; Job mobility; School superintendents; Social change; US superintendents; Women; Women’s career choices

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: College of Education, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA , USA

Publication date: May 5, 2015

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