The possibility of finding a good number of African American women within a meeting of executive staff in any educational institution presents itself as slim to none. All through history, the education docket has been a sore subject when it comes to both race and balanced gender representation. In recent years, the number of women who are employed as teachers has far surpassed the number of positions occupied by men. Regardless, the leadership positions within these institutions have been and are still dominated by men and moreso white men (Longman 3). The prospects of women and African American women have risen steadily in other careers within the United States. However, they still have little to no access to positions of leadership within the schools where they are employed. These positions are inclusive of, assistant principalship, superintendency and principalship (Billmoria 370). The number of women who hold superintendent positions within the entire country fluctuates between 13% and 18% based on statistics provided by the North Carolina Department of Public instruction (DPI). This number notwithstanding the scarcity of women, especially African American women is unquestionable.
This dissertation will focus on the accessibility afforded to African American women to leadership positions within educational institutions within North Carolina. It shall demystify the challenges that are faced by the women of colour within the field and highlight where these challenges stem from. Concerning the discussions on access to school leadership that this group possesses, we shall aim to address judicial actions and legislative procedures that have been undertaken in attempts to broaden the scope of access for the women of colour. Previous research is evidence of the inability of legislative action to rectify the discrepancies in leadership allocation within the education sector. African American women are still overlooked when it comes to career advancement because of their race and their gender. This study will endeavour to examine these particular challenges that have confronted the African American woman who aspires to hold higher positions within educational institutions.
Background of the Study
The teaching profession has grown and developed exponentially throughout the 1800s. Many people were exposed to the benefits of offering and receiving education. However, women were often overlooked when it came to matters of acquiring formal education, not to mention being involved within the education process (Mayer 44). Their male counterparts often treated women as lesser individuals whose only responsibility was to care for the family and to procreate. Educating the women within their society amounted to a waste of time and of resources (Bakhov 16). However, this situation changed drastically by the nineteenth century, whereby more women in the United States began to receive formal education and were thereafter hired as teachers. At this certain time, several female pioneers such as Catharine Beecher opened up educational centres for the sole purpose of educating the female population(Bakhov 17). The availability of these learning institutions meant that women could now receive training similar to that afforded to their male individuals within their society.
Currently, the number of female teachers form 76% of the total teaching population in the U.S. Among this number a considerable amount of the female teachers hold leadership positions within different educational institutions. Between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of female principals recorded was at 54% and set to rise further if several measures are put in place to aid in their promotions. Some authors have documented that the minimal number of females in principalship or other leadership positions is a subject of national significance (Yamaguchi 220). Mertz (2019) put forth that Title IX in 1972 prompted a surge in the number of women who were employed as public school administrators. Thirty years later, the situation is still the same, and men are still dominating the topmost leadership positions within the education sector. The changes that took place to better place women within administrative roles took place gradually. McCarthy and Zent’s (2015) research shows the progress that had been made in increasing female representation in leadership roles such as that of superintendent and principals thus levelling the percentage levels between that of the education sector and that of the general workforce. Lack of credentials is not what is keeping women from obtaining leadership positions within the educational industry. Recent studies show that women have been taking the necessary steps to achieve the required credentials to occupy leadership positions (Fershee, 680). The studies indicated that the number of women who were acquiring credential to become principals exceeded the number of males doing the same.
In more ways than one, the circumstances that the African Americans faced in the educational sector was worse than that of the women in the 1900’s. For instance, before the advent of the Civil War, it was illegal to educate people of colour, and they were not allowed to attend school (Coleman 189). However, during the emancipation period in the South, African Americans began to create their institutions where they could educate their children. The Negro Rural School Fund set up well-educatedsupervisors made up of African American females, who were integral to the improvement of the educational abilities of the Black people. The advent of the 20th century brought about a wave of African American men and women developing schools and curriculums for the African American children, initially as private ventures but later as they matured, as segregated public school systems (Coleman 172). As the segregation of schools gained momentum, the African American educators more often than not lost their positions of seniority and even their jobs. These sort of circumstances are what pre-empted the current institutional blocks that African American individuals are faced with when it comes to securing administrative duties.
As the situation is, African American Individuals and women separately are already at the losing end of educational leadership recognition. Therefore, the group that is coined from crossing both groups is the African American women is at a higher disadvantage when it comes securing leadership positions within the education sector. Nationally, African Women hold less than five per cent of all superintendent positions recorded (Kaba 110). The number may have risen or decreased over the years, depending on the forms of affirmative action. Their lack of access is visible due to their limited representation in these positions. The education institutions in North Carolina are suffering under the circumstances whereby the African Women show the lowest level of leadership appointments. In a study conducted by Guthrie Jordan, the minority female representation was 4.3% of the total number, and in 2015 the number of female administrators was represented by 5.8% of the whole population. Of school administrators found in North Carolina (Kaba 110). Various obstacles face the women of colour who wish to advance their careers as school leaders, and they are in the form of both their gender and their race. Certain scholars have given instances where African American female leaders’ have been impeded by these two perceived disadvantages and their career advancements curtailed. If they wish to break the narrative, they are tasked with the responsibility of breaking the proverbial glass ceiling.
Generally, women in leadership have concerns that have no reflection on women of colour. Th absence of African American women in institutional leadership positions is an issue that is well noted but rarely questioned. Their problem is often blown up to illustrate the plight of all women seeking leadership in different capacities and not just the education sector instead of giving them specific attention. Black women lack the role of the pressor and the oppressed, unlike the black male and white female members of the society to which they belong (Beckwith 124). Not only are black women at the lowest position of the occupational ladder, but their social status is also of low ranking compared to the other groups.
Theoretical Foundations and Conceptual Framework
A theoretical framework can be defined as a pair of theoretical assumptions that define the relationship between a set of phenomena. We shall utilize theories that connect to the African American women and Women of Color in leadership. The scope of leadership shall be relegated to educational institutions rather than in every other field. Themes connected to both race and gender roles shall be covered within the literature review portion of the study. We shall be focusing on two theories which shall shed light on the scope of the study. The theories are Transformational leadership and Authentic Leadership. Transformational Leadership is a theory of leadership that focuses on demystifying the need for change and building up on the vision for change through providing inspiration to their chosen team and realizing the change together. This theory serves to enhance morale, motivation and job performance of all those who seek to follow its mandate. It is a basis for building on individuals or a team’s ability to adapt to different situations. Providing leadership positions to women of colour would spark a change within the various institutions and enable a new status quo to be put in place. Authenticity in leadership can only be achieved if all are given a fair chance to vie for the positions. Changes throughout history have forced research to come up with new ways of theorizing and understanding gender and ethnicity as it translates to leadership.
Through the examination of the complexities that accompany African American women’s leadership attributes through their authenticity, it would provide a clearer understanding of what challenges these women face within their roles. The limitation of this current theoretical approach is its distinct focus that leads to a targeted effort to address one issue of leadership perceptions concerning gender. Many leadership theories have been applied to leadership aspects; however, many studies do not solely focus on female leaders (Daniels 11). This theory, does, however, give a deeper understanding of how women are perceived and how gender issues play a role in the lived experiences of the women in leadership roles. While the number of women in senior leadership positions has increased dramatically during the past 35 years, their numbers at the top remain small. Regardless of the minimal literature that exists with regard.
Authentic Leadership is synonymous with the process by which leaders are in control of their behaviours and thoughts within their contextual strongholds. These leaders are in control of all their faculties and have a clear understanding of self in terms of knowledge, development and convictions. The authentic leader is confident, genuine, transparent, confident, hopeful, resilient, and the developers of other leaders (Mohammadpour 500). They exhibit a high level of mindfulness when it comes to their authenticity and how they interact with subordinates. Authentic leadership is still in its initial stages of formation as a theory, but more research is being carried out due to people’s need to have leaders who are good and honest.
Bill George’s practical approach to authentic leadership model provides the qualities that an authentic leader has or should have to ensure effective leadership. According to this model, there are five dimensions as described by George that are associated with visible though intangible characteristics: relationships and connectedness, self-discipline and consistency, purpose and passion and compassion and heart (Hsieh 2329). Any individual who wishes to attain the highest efficiency in terms of leadership requires to exhibit the mentioned characteristics. Their race or gender does not factor in, and so should not be a point of consideration.
Transformational Leadership is a strategy that involves fostering for change through the application of continuous learning among staff and throughout the organization (Andersen 53). Transformational leadership model expresses the possibility of encouraging followers so that they can perform their duties as is expected (Andersen 60). Transformational Leaders provide inspiration and prompt respect, loyalty and a sense of shared responsibility from their employees. It can draw novel necessary paths for any organization and especially the education sector in this regard. This model provides a good foundation for effective long-term changes and facilitates transformation.
It was not known how qualified African American Women of Color perceive the gender gap that exists both in education and other areas within the workplace. Following the themes mentioned above, the study will aim to demystify the challenges that African American women and women of colour face in their attempts to acquire more representation in leadership positions. There is a gap in understanding African American Women and Women of Color in K-12 leadership roles and how gender and race have played a significant role (Sims 110).Unfortunately, there is limited research that specifically examines how African American women and Women of Color have recognized and perceived their career progression in K-12 education. Researchers Sanchez-Hucles and Davis (2010) proposed that African American female leaders face challenges in their pursuit ofadvancements and performance in leadership roles.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this research study was to explore the under-representation of African American women and women of colour who are qualified in leadership positions within the education sector. The situation has further created a gap that exists not only in education but also in other workplaces in North Carolina. The target population for the study shall be from Forsythe County. The main focus of the research was to find out what these challenges and obstacles are and how the target population has been hindered from their career advancement so far. The study population will be inclusive of 20 African American Women and Women of Color who are currently employed and hold leadership positions within the district of Forsyth County. The positions will include; Principals, Assistant Principals, Instructional Facilitators Cafeteria Supervisors and Assistant Superintendent. The data collection process will consist of face to face interviews, questionnaires and focus groups. One on one interaction with the participants of the study will ensure that the researcher acquires credible information.
Results of this study will hope to provide information as to how these twenty African American women and Women of Color in K-12 education were able to achieve roles in educational leadership, despite the barriers they may have faced The results may provide a better awareness of this underrepresentation from the personal accounts from those who are in certain leadership positions and their thoughts and perceptions of ways to improve the current situation and career advancement options.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
Research studies that do not test specific relationships between variables are called descriptive or qualitative studies. These studies are used to describe general or particular behaviours and attributes that are observed and measured. A good research question forms the backbone of proper research, which in turn is vital in unravelling mysteries of nature and giving insight into a problem(Bron 1535). Therefore, this study will attempt to answer the following research questions and hopefully demonstrate how qualified African American women and Women of Color perceive the under-representation in leadership positions which has created a gender gap that exists not only in education but in many areas of the workplace. This qualitative descriptive study will be guided by the following central research questions: (R1) What are the barriers African American women and Women of colour encountered in their journey leadership positions in K-12 institutions in North Carolina? (R2) From their perspective, what are some key elements that helped African American and Women of Color move into a position of leadership?
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