Journal of Texas School Women Executives, Volume III, Issue 1 2014 This study examined this lack of representation by analyzing obstacles and recommending strategies for overcoming barriers. Narrative inquiry qualitative method with storytelling design allowed African America women to tell their own stories (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Five women superintendents participated because there were only five African American women practicing as superintendents in Texas at the time of the study. Pseudonyms (Barrett, Dalton, Eason, Hilliard, and Freeman) are used to protect the identity of the participants who will be called Barrett, Dalton, Eason, Hilliard and Freeman). Through their voices, we hear powerful stories of strong and courageous women who overcame significant barriers to reach the highest administrative level in Texas school districts. Their stories can prepare other African American women as they aspire to become a superintendent in Texas. Barriers to Success The stories revealed seven barriers that were impediments to African American women seeking superintendent positions: non-minority populated school districts; search firm influence; school boards’ bias; race and gender issuues; relocation issues; and applicant fear. Non-minority or low-minority populated school districts. The African American women in this study were superintendents in heavily minority populated school districts. Having applied in predominately majority districts and being constantly rejected, perceptions were African American women were better suited for leading districts with high minority students. Ms. Dalton offered, “The search firm told me that I needed to apply for positions in minority populated districts because my chances would be greater.” Another participant, Ms. Barrett reported a similar experience, “The district wanted a minority because the community and school was heavily minority populated.” Search firm influence. At some point in the search for a superintendency, Ms. Dalton used search firms to no avail. She stated: I used two different search firms when applying for a superintendent position. I never heard anything back from anyone when I applied unless I initiated contact. Maybe they did not know me well enough, or maybe the connection was not there. But, I feel the search firm was a barrier for me because I was not in the network. Dalton goes on to say, I actually had one of the largest search firms in the country tell me that they did not know what I expected, I was already superintendent of North Chicago. I was Black; I was a woman, and there was not much hope for me in that search.
School board bias. School boards tend to hire people like themselves to educate the students in their districts (Shakeshaft, 1989; Hill, 2005a). Grogan (2004) added that women of color have the best chance of being hired as superintendent if school boards are relatively diverse. Ms. Eason, found this barrier to exist when she was hired as superintendent only after a minority representative was voted on the school board.