The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas

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The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas



We are pleased to present this research paper, which was made possible by the generous support of Houston Endowment. The purpose of this paper is to provide an in-depth quantitative and qualitative analysis of superintendency and gender in Texas and offer actionable recommendations for responding to said data.

At the outset, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Houston Endowment for their unwavering commitment to supporting research and projects that aim to positively impact education in Texas. Without their support, this research would not have been possible.

This research focuses on gender and district superintendent in Texas. Through a rigorous and thorough analysis of the available data and direct interviews with women education leaders in Texas, we have sought to identify the problem and propose effective solutions that can be implemented by policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders.

Throughout the research process, we have been guided by the principles of objectivity, rigor, and transparency. We hope that this research white paper will serve as a valuable resource for those seeking to understand and address gender within the superintendency in Texas.

Once again, we would like to express our sincere thanks to Houston Endowment for their support, without which this research would not have been possible. We are grateful for their ongoing commitment to improving education and outcomes for students and communities across Texas.

– Dr. Priscilla Aquino Garza and Tonya Clark, Educate Texas at Communities Foundation of Texas and Dr. Julia Rafal-Baer and Emily Hartnett, ILO Group

The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 2
The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 3 Table of Contents Introduction 4 Gender Disparity in Superintendency at the National Level...........5 Gender Disparity in Superintendency in Texas 7 Entities Conducting Superintendent Searches...............................11 The Practice of Naming a Lone Finalist 13 Charter Network Leadership in Texas ...........................................14 Call to Action 15 Scan to view the digital version. Scan to view the data.

The role of superintendent has long been considered one of the most prestigious positions in the American educational system, responsible for overseeing school districts and making important decisions that affect students, teachers, and staff. However, despite the increasing number of women who have entered the field of education, there is still a notable gender disparity within the superintendency. A recent study conducted by the ILO Group, a national education strategy and policy firm, The Superintendent Research Project sheds light on the persistent inequities in hiring for women superintendents in the top 500 largest districts across the nation, as well as issues in pay equality for women serving in state superintendent and commissioner roles.

This paper will use and build upon the ILO Group’s national study on gender and superintendency as a foundation to explore an understanding of gender disparity within district superintendency at a state level within Texas, alongside quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis specific

to educational leadership at the district and charter executive level across the state of Texas.

Comprehensive data collection and analysis efforts were taken to understand who is serving in the role of superintendent in districts across Texas. Information regarding superintendent name, gender, doctorate attainment, and district demographic components were collected for every traditional public school district and charter school or network that was in operation and enrolled students in the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years. Interviews were also conducted with a representative group of women currently serving in leadership roles in districts across the state of Texas; these interviews were conducted to provide a qualitative and descriptive lens to the quantitative data collection. Though limited in nature, the interviews serve as an important layer of research as they provide firsthand accounts and viewpoints of individuals who are most proximate to the subject matter presented in this paper.

4 Introduction
State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas

Gender Disparity in Superintendency at the National Level

The roots of the modern superintendency can be traced back to the mid-19th century, when the United States began to establish formal public school systems in cities and towns across the country. The first superintendents were typically responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of these new school systems, and for ensuring that they were run efficiently and effectively.

Two of the first superintendents were Gideon Hawley, who was appointed as the superintendent of schools in Buffalo, New York and Joshua Fry Speed, who was appointed to oversee the public schools in Louisville, Kentucky.1 Additional local school boards and superintendent positions were slowly created in the following decades and into the 1900’s, with men solely serving in these positions of educational leadership.

Women were not afforded the opportunity to serve as superintendents until the late 19th century, almost fifty years after the establishment of the superintendency. The first female superintendent was Phebe Sudlow, who led Davenport, Iowa in 1874 after initially teaching and later serving as principal within the district. Ms. Sudlow notably demanded equal pay to the men who had previously held the position, and after deliberation, the school board approved her request. Sudlow’s efforts opened the door of executive leadership for subsequent women, including Ella Flagg Young,

who went on to become the first female superintendent of an urban school district, leading Chicago Public Schools from 1909 until 1915.2

Though the “glass ceiling” of the superintendency had been broken by the pioneering efforts of the first female superintendents, the superintendent position was still generally reserved for men. An American Association of School Administrators study found that, in 1971, 1.3 percent of superintendents were women; in 1981, this percentage decreased to 1.2 percent. It later reported that the percentage of female superintendents rose to 7 percent in 1992; despite this increase in comparison to the previous decades, the Census Bureau identified the superintendency as the most male-dominated executive position of any profession in the United States.3 By 1998, Ohio State University professor Jackie M. Blount calculated that “the odds for a male teacher becoming a superintendent are one in 40 and the odds for a woman teacher becoming a superintendent are one in 1,667.”4

Researchers conclude that the lack of women serving as superintendents of school systems was intentional, as these executive positions were created for and intended to be filled by men. “Since the creation of those first positions, the superintendency has been defined and institutionalized as men’s work. This stereotype was perpetuated by the perceived skills of the position. The role of super-

1 Superintendent of Schools. (n.d.). In Encyclopedia of Education. Retrieved from Superintendent-Schools.html

2 Ray, Kecia. (2023, March 14). Lady Luck: The challenges of women moving into education leadership. Tech & Learning. Retrieved from

3 Huang, H., Liaw, S. S., & Lai, C. (2017). Exploring the Potential of Virtual Reality K-12 Education: An Overview of Its Design, Application, and Possibilities. Frontiers in Education.

4 Blount, J. M. (1998). Destined to Rule the Schools: Women and the Superintendency, 1873-1995. State University of New York Press.

The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 5

intendent emphasized management, and the goal was to improve overall school system operations by prioritizing time and efficiency. Highlighting the managerial aspect of the position kept the position almost exclusively male-dominated for decades.”5

More than twenty years after the AASA study and Ms. Blount’s analysis of the gender and the superintendency through 1995, stark gender disparities within executive education leadership across the United States still continue. Analyzing gender data from September 2022, of superintendents from the top five hundred largest school districts across the nation, The Superintendent Research Project from ILO Group found that only 30 percent of districts are led by women, a percentage that has stagnated in recent years despite historic rates of turnover and leadership churn.6

The only fully accessible public database on superintendents, The Superintendent Research Project collected data on superintendents, gender, and turnover from across the 500 largest public school districts in the United States from March 2018 to September 2022.

The research found that the percentage of women serving as superintendent has stagnated, with women leading only 30 percent of the nation’s largest districts—a number that has remained essentially unchanged since 2018.7

The stagnation is particularly notable given the increased rate of turnover and change within the superintendency since the pandemic. Half—or 246—of the nation’s largest 500 school districts, which collectively represent 12.5 million students, have had a disruption or change in superintendent leadership since March 2020, the start of the pandemic. This proportion of leadership churn amongst the nation’s largest districts represents a

Superintendency in Largest US Districts, by Gender Men Women

Source: ILO Group Superintendent Research Project, Dec 2022 update.

46 percent increase when comparing the two years before the pandemic began in March 2020 and the two years following the beginning of the pandemic.8

Despite the historic turnover, the research shows that when men or women leave a superintendent role, they are more likely to be replaced by a man, as 66 percent of newly appointed superintendents have been men. Additionally, of the 94 female superintendents who left since March 2020, 66 percent of those women leaders were replaced by men.9

5 Huang, H., Liaw, S. S., & Lai, C. (2017). Exploring the Potential of Virtual Reality K-12 Education: An Overview of Its Design, Application, and Possibilities. Frontiers in Education.

6 ILO Group. (2022, December 12). Updated Analysis Shows Leadership Disruption Impacts Almost Half of Nation’s Largest School Districts. Retrieved from

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 6
100% 75% 50% 25% 0% March 2018 71% 29% 29% 30% 71% 70% March 2020 March 2022

Gender Disparity in Superintendency in Texas

In 1869, the State Board of Education and the state superintendent positions were first established in Texas.10 From 1880–1881, Sue Huffman served as superintendent of a district that was previously located in Fort Worth; she was the first woman to serve as superintendent in the state of Texas.11 Annie Webb Blanton was the first woman to serve as state superintendent of Texas; she was elected to the position in 1918, and held the role for four years.12

Despite a history of women leading school systems in Texas for well over a century, there is currently a significant gender gap in district superintendency in Texas. In 2022, the K-12 Texas public school system served 5,165,871 students enrolled in a total of 8,161 schools in 1,024 school districts.13 Over the over 376,000 regular classroom teachers working in Texas public schools in the 2021–2022 school year, 75.9 percent were female.14 In contrast, women accounted for just over a quarter of district superintendents.

In addition to analyzing the gender breakdown of superintendents, analysis of educational attainment and district geographical aspects were also conducted. Regarding educational attainment, data was collected regarding superintendent attainment of doctoral degrees, and then analyzed in relation to gender within superintendency. A significant gap between male and female superintendent doctoral achievement was noted. Of the 269 women serving as superintendent of a traditional public school district in the 2022–2023

Superintendency in Texas, by Gender

school year, almost 40 percent had obtained doctoral degrees (includes EdD and PhD)—almost 7 percent more than the 755 male superintendents.

District geographic aspects were also analyzed in relation to superintendent gender. First, district locations were classified into locale types utilizing

10 “Texas Education Timeline.”

11 Fort Worth Independent School District. (n.d.)Retrieved from

12 Women in Texas History. (n.d.). Annie Webb Blanton. Retrieved from

13 “Public education in Texas.” Ballotpedia, (n.d.),

14 Texas Education Agency. (2022). Employed Teacher Demographics. Retrieved from

The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 7
25% 26% 100% 75% 50% 25% 0% 75% 74% 2021–2022 2022–2023
Men Women Source: ILO Group

Doctorate Attainment of Superintendents, by Gender (2022–2023)

Superintendency and Gender, by Region (2022–2023)

Gender, by Location Type (2022–2023)

the National Center for Education Statistics and four upper level urban-centric locale categories: city, suburban, town, and rural. Analysis of gender in superintendency in relation to each locale category demonstrated that women are slightly more likely to lead a school district in a suburban location (30 percent of suburban district superintendents are women) and slightly less likely to lead school districts in cities (24.6 percent of city superintendents are women). Notably, 638 (62.3 percent) of all traditional districts are rural. Women make up only 26.3 percent of superintendents in rural districts.

Lastly, gender and superintendency was also analyzed in relation to regions, as identified by the Texas Agency Education. Twenty regions, each supported by an education service center, exist in Texas and consist of a subset of districts in a geographic area. Superintendent gender was analyzed for each of the twenty regions; the percentage of female superintendents in a region ranged from 13.51 percent in Region 9, the Wichita Falls region located in north central Texas, to 48.78 percent in Region 2, the Corpus Christi region in south central Texas. None of the twenty regions had women serving as more than half of superintendents.

The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 8
100% 75% 50% 25% 0%
Superintendents with Doctorates Superintendents without Doctorates Men Women 33% 39% 61% 67% 100% 75% 50% 25% 0% Superintendent
Men Women City Suburb Town Rural 52 156 470 77 17 51 168 33 Region Name Female Male 1 Edinburg 42% 58% 2 Corpus Christi 49% 51% 3 Victoria 30% 70% 4 Houston 35% 65% 5 Beaumont 24% 76% 6 Huntsville 22% 78% 7 Kilgore 27% 73% 8 Mount Pleasant 30% 70% 9 Wichita Falls 14% 86% 10 Richardson 34% 66% 11 Fort Worth 29% 71% 12 Waco 21% 79% 13 Austin 24% 76% 14 Abilene 19% 81% 15 San Angelo 20% 80% 16 Amarillo 28% 72% 17 Lubbock 16% 84% 18 Midland 19% 81% 19 El Paso 42% 58% 20 San Antonio 20% 80%
Source: ILO Group Note: Largest population represented first in graphic.

Women serving within leadership positions in districts across the state of Texas were interviewed to provide qualitative understanding and a descriptive lens to be used in an additive component, utilized in conjunction with the quantitative research and analysis. Women serving in leadership positions were able to provide personal accounts and observations, which are important research components to consider alongside numerical data analysis, as they are the individuals who are most proximate to the researched issue.

Efforts were made to have a representative set of perspectives and experiences relayed. Collectively, the women interviewed served more than 470,000 students across the state of Texas and represented 6 regions and every location type; 69 percent working in urban districts, 8 percent working in suburban districts, 8 percent in towns, and 15 percent in rural locales. About two-thirds of the women interviewed identified as people of color.

The personal experiences of women leaders in Texas often mirrored national research with regards to leadership challenges and gender, including aspects related to career path, perceived gender bias, hiring entities, and the need for sponsorship.

In 2010, the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) conducted a study and found that women who became superintendents had, on average, more years of experience in education than their male counterparts. Specifically, women had an average of 24.9 years of experience in education, while men had an average of 23.7 years of experience.

However, despite having more experience, women were less likely than men to become superintendents. The study found that women who became superintendents had, on average, spent 3.3 years longer in lower-level administrative positions than men who became superintendents. This suggests that women may face additional barriers or challenges that slow their progression to the superin-

Texas Women Leaders Interviewed, by Role Category

Leaders Interviewed, by Race

The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 9
15 Glass, C., Bjork, L., & Brunner, C. C. (2010). The American Association of School Administrators’ 2010 Women in the Superinten- tendent position.15
Deputy/Assistant Superintendent Black/African American Executive Officer/Office Asian American and Pacific Islanders Chief Hispanic/ Latina Executive Director/ Director White 31% 31% 31% 31% 39% 23% 8% 8%
Texas Women

Another study published in Educational Administration Quarterly in 2019 found that women took longer than men to reach the superintendent position, even when controlling for years of experience and education. The study found that women took an average of 13.8 years to become a superintendent, while men took an average of 11.9 years. The study also found that women were less likely to apply for superintendent positions, and when they did apply, they were less likely to be selected as finalists.16

One potential contributing factor as to why there are fewer women superintendents lies within internalized bias and antiquated views of leadership skills related to gender. “Men are seen as having leadership qualities like gravitas, while women are seen as having supporting-role qualities like dependability,” adds the New York Times—a dynamic that may explain why women thrive in the heavily relationship-dependent field of education, but less frequently reach the top spot.17 The experience of one woman leader reflected this; although a colleague personally recommended she be interviewed for a leadership role, the person responsible for hiring asked, “is she a female, because I need a male for this role.” Similarly, a female African

American leader shared that at one time, she was interested in applying for a superintendent role in a school district that predominantly served Black students; she was discouraged from applying by a member of the search firm leading the search process and was told that the school board wanted a “Black or Latino man for the position.”

The vast majority of women interviewed referenced what they referred to as the “good old boys” network, the informal system in which men with similar social or educational backgrounds help each other in business or personal matters—and a network that has very real consequences for women, including pay disparity. A study out of Harvard found that male managers promoted male employees more quickly than female employees, while female managers equally promoted men and women employees.18 A female leader in Texas stopped considering the path towards superintendency because of “all of these men and good old boys network; especially the vast majority of school districts in Texas are small, rural districts [where] the pee wee football coach becomes the high school athletic director, becomes the head of transportation, and finally the superintendent.”

dency Study. American Association of School Administrators. Retrieved from

16 Lugg, C. A., & Smith, E. (2019). Sex, Experience, and Time: The Career Path to the Superintendency. Educational Administration Quarterly, 55(5), 702–731.

17 Cain Miller, Claire. “The number of female chief executives is falling.” The New York Times, 23 May 2018, https://www.nytimes. com/2018/05/23/upshot/why-the-number-of-female-chief-executives-is-falling.html.

18 Kohler, L. (2021, April 22). New Research Finds The ‘Old Boys’ Club’ At Work Is Real—And Contributing To The Gender Pay Gap. Forbes. Retrieved from

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Entities Conducting Superintendent Searches

When superintendents exit their role within the school district, there is a need for a comprehensive succession plan and a thoughtful approach to finding the next leader. It is the hope that through their search and hiring process, school districts can ensure that they are hiring the most qualified candidate and that the hiring process is conducted in a fair and transparent manner.

Research found that over 300 changes in leadership occurred during the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years, thus resulting in the search and/or hiring of new superintendents within traditional public school districts in Texas. Search processes were led by a variety of entities, including: search firms, law firms, education service centers, and the Texas Association of School

Boards, as well as internally within independent school districts or via permanently hiring those serving as the interim. (Note: a number of school districts were unresponsive to requests for information and no publicly available information regarding who led or conducted their search process was available. These districts are indicated as “none / unknown.”)

Between the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years, independent school districts and law firms led the greatest number of superintendent searches in Texas. When excluding searches in which the search entity is unknown, independent school districts and law firms conducted almost half of all searches, while traditional search firms conducted roughly 15 percent of searches during this time.

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Search Firm Law Firm ESC TASB ISD Interim None/Unknown 0 40 20 30 10
2022–2023 50 60 70 2021–2022 23 32 16 15 36 25 35 17 24 21 14 28 22 24 Source: ILO Group
Entities Conducting Superintendent Searches in Texas

Hires by Search Entity in Texas, by Gender

and 2022–2023 combined)

When analyzing the gender of superintendents hired in relation to entities conducting searches, research found that there was not a single search entity that collectively resulted in women being hired in half of the searches. Of the 37 searches that education service centers conducted, men were chosen in 31 (83.7 percent) of the time. When search firms or independent school districts

led searches, men were hired almost 70 percent of the time. When an interim was chosen as the permanent superintendent, about two thirds of the time it was a man. When law firms, the external search entity that conducted the greatest number of searches, led a search process, a man was hired 6 out of 10 times.

The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 12
Search Firm Law Firm ESC TASB ISD Interim None/Unknown 0% 25% Men
Women 50% 75% 100% 27 34 31 15 44 31 38 13 22 6 14 20 16 21

The Practice of Naming a Lone Finalist

In Texas, when a K-12 school district is searching for a new superintendent, the school board has the option to name a lone finalist for the position instead of publicly announcing all the finalists or candidates. The practice of naming a lone finalist for superintendent searches in Texas is authorized by a statute that provides that the identity of the lone finalist for a superintendent position may be publicly disclosed at least 21 days before the superintendent is formally appointed. Texas Government Code 552.126 states that the “governing body of the institution must give public notice of the name or names of the finalists being considered for the position at least 21 days before the date of the meeting at which final action or vote is to be taken on the employment of the person.” However, prior to that point, the candidate’s identity and application materials are confidential.

Naming a lone finalist for superintendent searches in Texas can have both positives and negatives. On the positive side, this practice allows the school board to focus on a single candidate and conduct a thorough investigation of their background and qualifications. It also helps maintain confidentiality, which may be important for candidates who are currently employed elsewhere and do not want their job search to become public knowledge.

However, there are also potential negatives to this practice. One can argue that naming a sole finalist limits transparency and public input into the selection process. Additionally, according to a study from the Harvard Business Review, a finalist pool with only one woman or leader of color decreases the likelihood that the diverse candidate

will be chosen for the role. A sole woman or finalist of color increases the likelihood that selectors will stereotype that finalist. A finalist pool with just two women increased the likelihood of a woman getting hired by 79 times.19

Additionally, the process for the recruitment of candidates may be creating status quo bias and perpetuating a higher number of candidates who look like those who are leading searches and recruiting candidates. Qualitative research found that search entities frequently employ retired superintendents to assist with and lead searches and the recruitment of applicants. Given that the majority of retired superintendents are white men, utilizing a binary group of individuals to lead recruitment and selection may result in a limited network and candidate pool being tapped, and thus cause a recruitment and selection issue from the start of a selection process.

Overall, the decision to name a lone finalist or multiple finalists for superintendent searches in Texas depends on the specific circumstances and priorities of the school board and the community it serves. Maintaining a commitment to having finalist pools (whether public or confidential) with multiple women is a practice that may support more women in Texas accelerating into the superintendency.

19 Datar, S., & Kusunoki, Y. (2016, April 12). If There’s Only One Woman in Your Candidate Pool, There’s Statistically No Chance She’ll Be Hired. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

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Charter Network Leadership in Texas

This report and the data referenced within it is specific to traditional districts that operate in Texas, and does not include data related to charter school or network executives, as these two types of educational institutions operate differently. Comparing superintendent data separately allows for a more nuanced understanding of the executive leadership data and challenges in each setting, ensuring that data is not conflated due to the mixing of traditional district and charter executive leader data.

That said, in the 2020–2021 school year, there were 184 state-authorized charter schools which served 347,498 students, accounting for 6.8 percent of the total Texas public school population.20 Texas charter schools may be authorized by local school district authorizers or by the state authorizing office, and may be single site charter schools or part of a larger charter network.

The Texas Superintendent Database contains leader information for all charter schools operating in the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years and enrolled students during this time period. The executive leaders within the charter schools and networks do not all hold the title of superintendent, but perform the functions and duties of the top executive leader within the organization, regardless of job title, school count, or network size.

As shown in the graph entitled “Charter CEOs and Superintendents, by School Count (2022–2023),” gender disparity for charter executive leaders increases as the number of schools within the network that the leader oversees increases. In the charter system in Texas, women are more likely to lead smaller networks of schools (including single-sites) than networks of 5 or more schools; this more closely mirrors gender disparity in school leadership, as women make up about 50 percent of school principals.

There is also an inverse relationship between the percentage of women in leadership positions and the enrollment size of the charter network. Women lead almost 60 percent of charter networks in the first quartile, with oversight of 262 students or less, but they lead only 40 percent of charter networks in the fourth quartile, overseeing charter networks with more than 1410 students.

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20 Texas Education Agency. (2021). Statewide Summary of Public Education 2020-2021. Retrieved from default/files/enroll-2020-21.pdf
All Charter
Networks with
1 school Charter Networks with 2–4 schools Charter Networks with 5+ schools
Men Women 88 44 9 81 57 17 100 80 60 40 20 0
Charter CEOs and Superintendents, by School Count (2022–2023) Source: ILO Group

Call to Action

To make meaningful and sustainable progress toward gender equality in superintendency in Texas, action is needed from all members of the education community, including school board members, entities conducting recruitment and searches, those already in leadership roles. ILO Group Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Julia Rafal-Baer stated that “It’s not just a moral imperative to close gender gaps in district leadership around the country. It’s an educational one as well. Children deserve to benefit from the full pool of talent that’s there, and they also need to be able to see themselves in their leaders. Right now, as a country, we’re going in the wrong direction.”21

The disparity between men and women leading the Texas public school system deprives millions of children of leadership talent. The problem exists in part because of societal factors: stereotypes

about the capabilities of women and definitions of leadership predicated on traits associated with men, and existing networks that favor men. It is also driven by structures under the control of school systems: skewed pipelines that favor men and bias in the hiring processes. As Texas continues to make strides in education innovation that allows all children to succeed, it is critical that it taps into the full range of talent to lead its education systems, and that education leaders better reflect the diversity of the systems they represent.

Specifically, these strategies are (1) prioritizing gender equity in recruitment and selection, (2) being transparent, (3) supporting families and wellbeing, (4) being financially fair, and (5) intentionally fostering support systems for women and women of color.

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21 Phillips, V. (2023, March 17). Women In School District Leadership: Rarer Than You Think. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.

Prioritizing Gender Equity in Recruitment and Selection

Search firms should have honest conversations with their clients around gender bias, and at least two women and leaders of color ought to be included in any superintendent candidate pool. School boards and hiring committees must set clear expectations regarding diversity of candidate pools with the entities or individuals who are conducting their search and selection processes, and search entities should have similar expectations with their clients. Recruitment, selection, and hiring of superintendents is highstakes, and there must be clear roles and responsibilities for all involved, including the school board, the entity conducting the search, and the community.

School boards may consider making the finalist pool of candidates public, or releasing summative information like the number of finalists, the percentage of male versus female candidates, and the percentage of candidates of color. Doing so will increase transparency of the recruitment and selection process, and demonstrate prioritization of ensuring gender and racial equality in search and hiring processes.

Being Transparent

Neither school boards nor search consultants are currently required to report to the Texas Education Agency or to the public the number or qualifications of their applicants, much less any information regarding the gender or race/ethnicity of applicants or finalists for superintendent positions. The Texas Education Agency and legislature should set clear, public goals with regards to making progress to closing the gender equity gap within district superintendency in Texas, and demand that search firms, law firms, and other entities conducting superintendent searches—along with school boards—commit to making progress toward those goals. Transparent and routine reporting of progress and data on searches and hires is a critical step in this work, and should be made available to the public on an ongoing basis.

Supporting Families and Wellbeing

Policies should be in place within organizations that promote work/life balance and wellbeing, both for women and for all employees within an organization. Districts must determine what policies will best support leaders, with the recognition that women disproportionately take on the child and elder care responsibilities and other home responsibilities. Board members and others overseeing and supporting superintendents—and all executive leaders—should implement policies that will lead to general wellbeing for all employees, particularly women, which may include flexible work schedules, telecommuting or hybrid work options, limited evening and weekend meetings, childcare assistance, eldercare support, sabbaticals, and health and wellness stipends.

Being Financially Fair

Women superintendents should be paid equally as men because gender-based pay disparities are not only unfair but also have negative consequences for individuals, families, and society. Pay equity is essential to ensure that women have equal opportunities to succeed in leadership roles and to build a more equitable and inclusive society. Additionally, paying women superintendents fairly helps to attract and retain top talent and sends a clear message that the district values and respects the contributions of all employees, regardless of gender.

ILO Group research from March 2022 found that female state superintendents received, on average, 12 percent less pay than their male counterparts; and female elected superintendents make 26 percent less on average than elected male superintendents. At the district level, the Council of the Great City Schools

The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 16

found that women superintendents earn between $20,000 and $30,000 less than their male counterparts. Similar findings were noted in a 2019 thought leadership piece in the Hechinger Report, which found a gender gap of $25,000 when they examined the most recent publicly available salary data for education leaders at the state level.22 The solution is simple: pay women the same as you pay men for the same work.

Intentionally Fostering Support Systems

Women leaders should be provided with several support systems to help them succeed in their roles. One important support system is coaching, which can help women leaders to develop their skills and competencies, overcome challenges, and achieve their goals. Coaching can also help women leaders to build confidence and resilience and to navigate complex organizational and interpersonal dynamics made even more complicated—and lonely—when serving as an executive leader.

Another important support system is sponsorship, which involves senior leaders advocating for and promoting the career advancement of women leaders. Sponsors can help women leaders to build networks, identify opportunities, and gain visibility within the organization. They can also provide guidance and support to help women leaders overcome barriers to advancement and achieve their career goals. It is imperative that we evolve our thinking about mentorship and embrace a culture of sponsorship, especially for women of color. Research has found that people with sponsors are more likely to have the confidence to ask for stretch assignments and pay raises; however, men typically have twice as many sponsors.

Lastly, women leaders can also benefit from access to professional development opportunities, networking events, and peer support groups. These support systems can help women leaders to build their skills, connect with other leaders in the field, and share experiences and best practices. Women need safe, collaborative spaces in which they can network and build relationships with one another, supporting each other in attaining and retaining the top role in states and districts.

The State of Superintendency and Gender in Texas 17
22 Rafal-Baer, Julia. (2019, August 5). “Opinion: Promoting women into education leadership”. The Hechinger Report. Retrieved from