Female education administrators' strategies for coping with sexism at the high school or district level

This study investigated strategies used by female public school administrators in the "power positions" of high school principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent to cope with workplace sexism. In 2004, five participants who held (or had held) one or more of the identified job positions for at least five years responded to the questionnaire created for this study. The questionnaire contained items concerning participants' backgrounds, experiences as administrators, and behaviors related to sexism; three scenario-based questions; and five open-ended questions. The results generally support insights from the literature that sexism can be avoided or interrupted by the specific behaviors of humor, careful use oflanguage, being extremely well-prepared and knowledgeable as a way to earn authority, and consciously projecting a decisive and forceful manner. The study suggests that women administrators often deal with sexism indirectly or tangentially to avoid being perceived as aggressive. However, they do not ignore sexism; instead, they respond in non-confrontational ways, with the goal of educating rather than challenging or castigating. The study reveals that mental toughness, courage, determination, and optimism help women achieve that goal. In addition, the study shows the need for women to remain objective and focus on doing their job to the best of their ability, rather than get distracted by sexism, in order to fulfill their fundamental commitment to being effective instructional leaders. Keywords: coping strategies, school administrators, sexism, women leaders