A multiple-case analysis of the career paths of women school district administrators in the state of Wisconsin

Suzanne Marguerite Lundin, Marquette University


The purpose of this study was to examine the career paths of women who in the 1992-1993 school year served as school district administrators in Wisconsin public school districts. The study sought to: (1) describe the individual career paths of women who were successful in obtaining positions as district administrators in Wisconsin public school districts; (2) identify barriers to career advancement encountered by these administrators; and (3) identify factors and strategies these women administrators used to assist them in career advancement. The research began with an informational survey followed by four in-depth case studies. The researcher gathered information which focused upon career paths, barrier to goal attainment, and strategies to overcome these obstacles. Data analysis revealed that the women held a variety of licenses, with the majority trained in elementary education. They did no early career planning and they entered administration after teaching an average of nine years. The majority were administrators in rural districts. The size of the districts they supervised ranged from 80 to 25,000 students. Participants identified "making a difference for children" as the primary motivation for going into administration. Case studies revealed the impact of a significant male mentor upon career decisions. Sponsors provided encouragement and assistance in planning for and obtaining positions. Financial considerations also emerged as a factor in advancement. Although lateral and hierarchichal movement towards the superintendency were demonstrated, younger women went directly into district administrator positions from teaching. Conclusions were as follows: (1) Women district administrators in Wisconsin followed a variety of career paths. Case studies demonstrated that women in the smaller districts had lateral ascendency patterns, while those in the larger districts had more hierarchichal career paths. (2) The findings supported previous research on barriers to advancement. Lack of sponsorship may be a major barrier to women who wish to attain district administrator positions. (3) Younger women may not be facing some of the barriers to advancement that were encountered by women over the age of forty. (4) The most significant factors/strategies for advancement were mentoring, networking with male colleagues and family/spousal support.

Recommended Citation

Lundin, Suzanne Marguerite, "A multiple-case analysis of the career paths of women school district administrators in the state of Wisconsin" (1993). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9411525.