The effects of race and gender on the superintendency: voices of African American female superintendents



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Women continue to be underrepresented among American public school superintendents (Skrla, Reyes, & Scheurich, 2000), although they hold the majority of teaching positions and are the majority in administrative preparation courses. The situation is even worse for those who are female and African American. In contrast, White males represent 87% of superintendents (Bell & Chase, 1993). This qualitative study examined the effects of race and gender (the “double whammy”) on four African American female superintendents (two current and two former). This multiple case study presents the perceptions and stories of the intersectionality of race and gender within the superintendency for these four African American female superintendents. The study used critical race theory, Black feminist thought, and constructivist epistemologies and data-gathering techniques of participant observation, interviewing, and document collection. This study reveals ways African American female superintendents, in their own narrative voice, juggle their personal and professional lives as they struggle to be accepted as equals in their profession. By gaining a greater understanding of the race and gender inequity within the superintendency, educational communities have the opportunity to eliminate such inequities in the United States public school superintendency. Ultimately, this study contributes to a richer understanding of the context within which African American female superintendents work, which may improve their access to and retention in the superintendency.