Audrey Spalding
Paul, Bill, David, Steve, Michael. It's not an exhaustive list, but those are some of the most common superintendent names. "Mary" shows up much less often.

In fact, nearly 79 percent* of Missouri superintendents are male.

Though it's getting better, it's a sad fact that men tend to earn higher salaries than equally qualified women. It's a sad fact that there are more men in leadership positions than women.

But in school districts, where superintendents tend to come from the ranks of teachers and administrators, this is shocking. It's not just that a large majority of Missouri superintendents are male. It's that a large majority of superintendents are male while a large majority of school district employees are female. According to the National Center of Education Information, 82 percent of all teachers in the United States were female in 2005.

I can hear knees jerking: There aren't as many women as men who have advanced education degrees. Women don't pursue leadership positions. Women like working on a teaching schedule instead of the nearly constant one demanded of superintendents. The superintendent is chosen by the school board, and they just choose the most qualified candidate. Women need time to cook dinner ...

Right now, I don't have a numeric answer for any of those claims. I can tell you that there are many male superintendents who don't have advanced degrees, and there are many female superintendents who do.

I can tell you that I can't remember corresponding with a male secretary at any of the 524 Missouri school districts from which Cynthia and I have been requesting superintendent contracts. Whatever the reason, it looks like a lot of school employees fall within traditional gender roles.

*To calculate the 78.8 percent, I used the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's listing of superintendents for the 2007–2008 school year. I did not include charter schools in this, nor did I include the principals at small Missouri schools that do not have a superintendent.

If you have any comments about this post, please leave them below. As always, if you have suggestions or questions about my research, please email me.

About the Author

Audrey Spalding