Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Pamela A. Angelle

Committee Members

Ralph G. Brockett, Norma T. Mertz, Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon


Research suggests that women in leadership have struggled with juggling multiple roles while serving in key leadership positions; however, there are limited studies that women superintendents are achieving satisfactory work-life balance (Olesniewicz, 2012; Reecks-Rodgers, 2013). Although, both men and women experience work-life issues (Korabik, Lero & Whitehead, 2008; Sallee, 2012), women experience those challenges differently due to societal expectations (Burke, Page & Cooper, 2015). Do such societal influences promote orchallenge rural women superintendents’ ability to experience a sense of achievement or satisfaction in both realms? Do traditional societal norms and expectations influence women superintendents’ identities?The purpose of this descriptive qualitative study was to gain a greater understanding of work-life issues and strategies of women superintendents in rural public school districts in the southeastern US. As a result of examining this phenomenon through the lens of social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), we gain a greater understanding of how social identity salience influenced participants’ behavior to achieve a sense of achievement and satisfaction in both their personal and professional lives.Data were collected through open-ended interviews with the eight women superintendents of rural public school districts in three southeastern states. Findings revealed that participants’ social identity salience was to their role as superintendent. Salience to the profession therefore revealed several key findings. While non-membership in the good ole boys network and lack of other women superintendents with whom to network permeated the professional realm, such situations did not stifle nor negatively influence women superintendent’s self-concept. Rather participants sought ways to positively assert themselves to maintain positive self-esteem through open and effective communication, deliberate ethical decision-making, and professional and personal support systems.

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