Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

W. Jeff Wallis


The current representation of women as heads of schools in accredited National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) schools is significantly less than that of men. Further, the percentage of women in these top positions remains far below their representation in the profession of teaching. This phenomenological study examined the perspectives of female administrators from the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) on the underrepresentation of women as heads of school in independent schools. This qualitative study was framed through social role theory (Eagly & Wood, 1988), and was guided by three research questions: What supports and/or constraints do women in independent schools experience when considering becoming a head of school? How does the culture of independent schools affect women becoming independent school leaders? In what ways, if at all, does the organizational structure of independent schools create barriers for women to access top leadership positions? To understand the barriers, a sample of 10 female administrators working in an NAIS accredited CAIS day schools were interviewed. The study results identified common barriers and supports found in the literature in the context of leadership, gender, and public schools, such as work/family balance and mentorship. Further, it supported women’s preference for a more collaborative approach. It also indicated that barriers to women assuming head of school leadership is influenced by the perception that independent schools have a gendered expectation of leadership, are increasingly run like a business, and the leader’s role in working with the board of directors can be unclear.

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