School & District Management

By the Numbers: How Men Are Favored for the Superintendent’s Job

By Denisa R. Superville & Laura Baker — December 14, 2022 1 min read
Image of a female figure looking down at where you can check-off "Men" or "Women"
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The majority of teachers, principals, and central office staff are women. Yet women continue to be outnumbered in the top job.

It got worse for female superintendents during the pandemic, according to a new report by the ILO Group, a nonprofit geared toward increasing the number of women serving in senior leadership roles in school districts.

As 49 percent of the country’s 500 largest school districts changed leaders during the pandemic—some of them multiple times—a disturbing trend emerged: the women who left were more likely to be replaced by men.

But the report points to some areas that could be leveraged to boost those numbers.

A dearth of female district chiefs

While women comprise the vast majority of the workforce in schools, the number of women at the superintendent level dwindles to less than one-third.

Image representing that 76% of teachers are female in a study of the top 500 school districts, 56% of principals are women, and 30% of superintendents are women.

External hires favor male candidates

Nearly half of the country’s largest 500 school districts are run by superintendents who had not previously worked in the district.

The ILO analysis found that in those cases, the successful candidates tended to be men.

Of the 241 districts where the superintendent came from outside the school system, only 66 of them—27 percent—had a woman at the helm.

Diagram showing: Of the 241 districts where the superintendent came from outside the school system, only 66 of them—27 percent—had a woman at the helm

But women have a better shot if they’d already worked in the district

A promising sign: Women who’ve previously worked in the district in positions such as a chief academic officer or a deputy superintendent stood a good chance of getting the top job if they applied.

In the 150 districts where women were superintendents through September, 56 percent had previously worked in the district.

Diagram showing: In the 150 districts where women were superintendents through September, 56 percent had previously worked in the district.

And in 52 percent of the largest 500 districts that opted to go with an internal candidate, 32 percent of those districts are run by women. But one downside is that women often had to prove themselves first—such as working as the interim superintendent—before finally getting the permanent post.

Diagram showing: In 52 percent of the largest 500 districts that opted to go with an internal candidate, 32 percent of those districts are run by women. But one downside is that women often had to prove themselves first—such as working as the interim superintendent—before finally getting the permanent post.

Animations are by Laura Baker/Education Week via Canva

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Divisive Politics Are Harming Schools, District Leaders Say
A new survey reveals how tough the politics are for some leaders, especially in the suburbs.
8 min read
Illustration of tug of war.
Illustration by Laura Baker/Education Week, SvetaZi, and iStock/Getty
School & District Management Leading a City School District Is Tough. A New Program Aims to Ease the Way
Its creators hope to drive down big-city superintendent turnover by preparing candidates for the stresses of leadership.
3 min read
Woman standing on a paper boat with a tsunami wave approaching.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management 5 Tips for Switching From Snow Days to Remote Classes
Two district leaders say communication, flexibility, and adaptability are key to success.
4 min read
Close up of hands holding a smartphone and working at a laptop near a window showing a snowy day
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Will Schools Actually Ditch Snow Days for Virtual Learning? The Outlook Is Still Cloudy
More districts are substituting some remote learning, but snow days are still an option in many places.
5 min read
Buses parked covered with snow
iStock/Getty