Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education



First Advisor

Tanya Vest

Second Advisor

Brian Wilson

Third Advisor

Jared Terry


Female superintendents throughout the United States disproportionately represent superintendents of public school districts (Cassidy et al., 2021; Gullo & Sperandio, 2020). This research study utilized the theoretical frameworks of feminism and the structured organization of institutions (Acker, 1990). In addition, the qualitative study used the phenomenological design. An open-ended survey was utilized, as well as a follow-up interview with open-ended questions to solicit deeper, lived experiences of self-imposed barriers and the strategies lead female superintendents in a Midwest state employed to surmount those barriers. Forty-four female lead superintendents in a Midwest state shared stories of their journeys to a lead superintendent position. The study’s findings provide a current context for how lead female superintendents experience self-imposed barriers. The top strategies lead female superintendents employed to address barriers were communicating with all stakeholders and asking for help, working hard to prove themselves, and gaining educational stakeholders' respect. In addition, lead female superintendents had a familial and spousal support system willing to sacrifice for the female superintendent's career. These findings of this study validate the current research that females experience self-imposed barriers to varying degrees throughout their careers. Further research is recommended to identify additional strategies females can take to surmount self-imposed barriers during their career journey, of females leading as a superintendent in differing school district sizes and females of color in the superintendency. Furthermore, additional research is needed to determine barriers specific to the number of years females have served in the superintendency and factors that may affect this implication.


Copyright 2022, Leslee Kristina Smith.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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