Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Mary Hallums


The underrepresentation of women in the school superintendency in the United States may be attributed to a lack of role models, mentoring, and educational networking. The problem that this study addressed is the lack of insight into how mentoring influences women’s attainment of the superintendency. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to understand the mentoring experiences women superintendents identified as important in their lives and work. The conceptual framework of this study was based on Higgins and Kram’s developmental network. The research questions in the study explored how women superintendents describe mentorship experiences in their careers and describe the influences of these experiences in their attainment of the superintendency. Six superintendents, women who were not interim or retired, from K-12 public schools in a southern state participated in this study. Data were collected using semistructured interviews, questionnaire responses, and archival data from local education agencies. Open coding and second cycle coding informed thematic analysis. Four key themes emerged: women’s career paths to the superintendency, meaningful mentorship is essential for women, the importance of networking, and important factors for attainment of and best practices for maintaining the position. Participants indicated their mentorship experiences were influential in their attainment of the superintendency. Mentoring relationships experienced were mostly informal and self-sought. Factors that influence women’s attainment of the superintendency include gender disparity, challenges and barriers, career path, mentorship, networking, and other key factors like support systems and personal attributes. This study informs universities, regional education service centers, and superintendent certification preparation programs of the importance of networking and mentoring for women. Positive social change implications include more gender balance across the cadre of superintendents and more role models for the future.