Women and Professional Networks: Implications for Educational Leaders and District Central Offices
Social networks in education help to facilitate collaboration and thus are important for providing professional learning opportunities. Networks are especially important for district central office leaders in that they not only contribute to professional learning and help to diffuse knowledge and resources across the organization, but they also help to advance the careers of educational leaders. Women leaders, however, often struggle with being part of these organizational networks which can negatively affect their rise in the leadership ranks of their organizations as well as how they create organizational change.
The aim of this qualitative phenomenological study was to examine the professional networks of women district central office leaders and the role gender plays in these networks. The study focused on understanding how women experience networks at the district central office level and how, if at all, this impacts their leadership and career advancement.
Study findings highlight the importance of key relationships and mentors for women leaders. Women district office leaders engage in a variety of support positions and leverage relationships that they make throughout their careers as a means of professional learning, enhancing their leadership practices, and advancing their careers.
Implications for district central offices include creating specific formal and informal structures for their leaders to engage in collaborative networks and ensuring that women leaders are paired with mentors that will enhance their leadership development. Areas for further research include looking at the professional networks of male district office leaders and how their experiences compare to those of their women counterparts.
Keywords: district leadership networks, gender in educational leadership, women in educational administration; organizational change, career advancement in educational leadership