It’s Time To Close the Gender Gap in Education Leadership—and Give Women What They’ve Earned
The pandemic has impacted every facet of American education and the consequences, both academic and beyond, could reverberate for decades to come. But while much of the focus of the pandemic’s effects has been on classroom experiences and learning acceleration among students who need it most, there is another crisis stemming from COVID-19: staggering turnover rates among school superintendents—and the corresponding gender equity gap in district leadership.
Over the course of the past year, my team conducted a first-of-its-kind analysis to look at the issue closely. Since March 2020, 39 percent of the 500 largest school districts in the country have undergone or are currently undergoing leadership changes, an alarming number at a time when school systems need steady leadership and stability. Leadership changes can be disruptive to districts and their staff, and that level of disruption in central offices takes districts’ attention away from where it needs to be: on our students.
But the issue is not just that turnover is happening; it’s that men are replacing women at alarming rates. From coast to coast, the gender gap is worsening dramatically in education leadership.
Our research found that of the 83 percent of districts that have completed superintendent transitions and appointed a new superintendent since the pandemic began, 70 percent of those replacements have been men. That means the cumulative proportion and share of male leaders in the largest school districts increased from 65 to 69 percent. Further, in those districts where female superintendents left during the pandemic, 76 percent were replaced by men.