Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Eckman, Ellen

Second Advisor

Birren, Jill

Third Advisor

Schweizer, Heidi


According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (2014), 74 percent of Wisconsin’s teachers are women, while only 26 percent of Wisconsin’s superintendents are women indicating a significant disparity among the educational ranks. Studies have claimed that women are obtaining their superintendent credentials at the same rate as men, yet in the state of Wisconsin, women account for a mere 22 percent of licensed candidates. Much of the previous literature identifies this problem and rationalizes it with the gender biases that have plagued women for centuries. This study went beyond that and focused on women in the 26 percent who have overcome barriers and obstacles to their advancement and how they have managed to balance their work and family. This study was a narrative analysis of the personal and professional histories of female superintendents with children. Using qualitative methods through personal interviews of four women, this study addresses the need for role models for work-family balance for mothers who wish to pursue the superintendency. Probing questions were asked to identify what balance means for these women, how they balance their work and family, and what commonalities these women share in their personal and professional lives that relate to their career trajectories. Catherine Hakim’s Preference Theory was used to identify how these women characterize themselves as home-centered, adaptive, or work-centered. This theory was then applied to these women using the data obtained through their interviews in order to identify commonalities and themes among them as they relate to work-family balance. This study did not dismiss the biases and perceptions of women leaders, but instead focused on how these women navigated these perceptions, and to inherently see the light at the end of the tunnel. This study confirmed that women have a choice in their career decisions, that balance is different for each woman and that stages of career and family play an impactful role in what balance looks like. Finally, this study identifies traits found to be common among the participants that have helped them to find their balance and describe what balance looks like for women superintendents.