Barriers that limit Black women from rising to central office leadership positions in K-12 school systems

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Tyneka S. Holley (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Kathryn Hytten

Abstract: This study is an examination of the barriers that prevent Black women from rising to central office leadership positions in K-12 school systems. Black women do not have a clear path to educational leadership positions like many of their White counterparts and encounter barriers that could limit their promotion to higher level positions. The purpose of this study was to identify the barriers that hinder Black women from advancing in educational leadership positions and learn about the strategies that Black women have implemented to overcome barriers that could have hindered their ascension to central office leadership positions. I relied on a theoretical framework of Black feminist theory and Critical Race Theory. The barriers that Black women described as part of this interview-based study are that Black women are not seen as intelligent, must work twice as hard as their White counterparts, Black women fear messing up opportunities for other Black women, and are perceived as too much of one thing or not enough of another thing. Participants regarded the lack of access to information, opportunities, and networks of support as the most pervasive barrier for Black women leading in educational leadership positions. What has been most helpful to the participants in maneuvering the barriers was becoming good at relationship building, developing good communication skills, mentally preparing to be judged more critically than peers, personally seeking out supportive networks, and striving for positions where they can advocate for equitable hiring practices. I describe these findings using comments and examples from the interview participants and ground them in the context of Black feminist thought and Critical Race Theory (CRT). This study adds to the conversation of educational leadership from the perspective of promoting the voice of Black women and bringing to light the barriers Black women encounter in educational leadership positions. This research adds to the collection of leadership literature that helps educational leaders and hiring supervisors to think more about equitable leadership practices, stereotypical biases toward Black women, and support for Black women leaders. This study extends current research by providing a lens of understanding the experiences of Black women in central office leadership positions as well as presenting strategies to reshape the way that new and experienced Black women leaders are supported with seeking promotions to higher level positions. Keywords: Black women educational leaders; barriers; Black feminist thought

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Black women educational leaders, Barriers, Black feminist thought
Discrimination in education
Feminism and education
Educational leadership
Women in education

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