Disparity of Representation and the Pathway to the Principalship: The Phenomenological Experience of Female High School Principals

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Educational Administration

Date of Award

Spring 2023


In comparison to men, the high school principal role in Texas is a position that few women obtain in their educational leadership journey. Even though women are statistically more prominently employed as teachers in K–12 public education in Texas, women are not equally represented in the superintendency. This disparity of representation starts at the educational leadership level of principal. Since the vast majority of educational leaders who move into the superintendent role were once principals at the high school level, women are at a clear disadvantage because the high school principal role is statistically likely to go to men more often than women in Texas. A review of the literature identified a need for further study regarding the pathway to the high school principal role and the barriers that pathway holds, especially for women in Texas. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the career pathways of current female high school principals in Texas and determine the barriers these women have faced along the way. Through the use of hermeneutic phenomenology, the researcher strove to determine and understand the essence of the lived experiences portrayed by the participating principals in relation to the phenomenon of social role theory in Texas. The researcher used semistructured interviews and NVivo software in order to allow each participant to describe the lived experience of becoming a high school principal in Texas and to collect themes and nodes of their responses. Data analysis from the interviews illuminated nine emergent theses across two research questions. The first research question regarding the pathway to the high school principal ship revealed the following two emergent themes; (a) advancing titles through lower grade levels and (b) pathway preparedness. The second research questions, regarding barriers women faced revealed the following emergent themes: (a) capitalizing on mentorship, (b) working conditions/discrimination, (c) family and home responsibilities, (d) aspirations and confidence, (e) sex role stereotypes, (f) financial support, (g) opportunities for growth and advancement. These emergent themes are a result of the participants sharing their lived experiences as current high school female principals in the state of Texas.


Melissa Arrambide

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Administration and Supervision