Impacts of rural contexts on the career patterns of female administrators
Wallin, Dawn Colette
The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the rural context upon the career patterns of women educational administrators. The study examined three pertinent issues: (a) the nature of rural communities and its relationship to the representation of women in educational administration in terms of gender relationships and organizational fit; (b) the career patterns of female administrators in rural Saskatchewan; and (c) barriers and supports faced by female administrators. All female educational administrators who served rural public schools within Saskatchewan were sent questionnaires relevant to the research questions of the study. As well, 30 male administrators within rural public schools in Saskatchewan where there existed no female administrator representation were surveyed to gather information concerning the nature of the community and school division. After the surveys were returned, 24 female administrators were interviewed to obtain qualitative data relevant to the study. The main premise of this dissertation was that those women who obtain and who are successful in administrative positions within a particular rural community are those who "fit" the nature of the community in which they administrate. Organizational fit referred to the congruence between an individual in a particular role and the particular organization's idealized notion of the individual in that role. It was proposed that the likelihood of a woman obtaining and/or succeeding in administration could to a certain extent be predicted in communities of a similar nature. It was hoped that applying a typology of rural communities to the current educational situation in Saskatchewan public schools would illuminate patterns in the representation of female educational administrators. The data gathered by the closed-ended portion of the questionnaires were analyzed through the use of the SPSS software package on the University of Saskatchewan computer network. The data from the open-ended portion of the questionnaire, and that of the interviews, were analyzed through the use of the "Atlas-ti" software program according to qualitative research guidelines. Ultimately, the data were analyzed using the research questions as a guide. Organizational fit was found to exist for the majority of women in all three community types for the idea that there exists a general consensus on community expectations for the school. As well, administrators were expected to be highly involved in community activities and programs. Finally, it can be concluded that in general, expectations about combining work with marriage/family impact a woman's chances to pursue/perform in higher level positions. In relation to career patterns, female representation in educational administration tended to be strongest at theschool level. The patterns themselves indicated that many women entered central office positions through consultancies, or by having specialized qualifications such as a Special Education background. However, the results also suggested that the majority of women were in-school administrators, and therefore followed more traditional paths to central office. Finally, the majority of women in educational administration in rural Saskatchewan enjoyed a number of personal and organizational supports. The three supports of highest prevalence were demonstrating competency on the job, managing situations of sex bias, and the provision of good professional development opportunities. Women in Booming communities tended to be affected more highly by a greater number of barriers than those women in either Stable or Depressed communities. The barrier rated highly by the majority of women in all three community types was conflict between home and career.