Date of Award

Winter 11-28-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Phil Pendley

Second Advisor

Dr. LaFaye Platter

Third Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Lee


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the perceived barriers and support systems female high school principals experienced, through the lens of activity theory, while attaining and serving in their current position during the newest era of educational reform in a specific geographical region.

Methodology: Semistructured interviews were conducted with current female high school principals to gather data on the barriers and support systems they experienced. The theoretical framework of activity theory was used to analyze the subjects’ interaction with their environment as they sought the outcome of becoming and serving as high school principals.

Findings: Women who serve in the position of high school principal face a unique and complex set of tensions as defined by activity theory.

Conclusions: Hiring of more male principals than female principals results in a perceived barrier for aspiring female high school principals. Community provides the greatest support system for aspiring and serving female high school principals. The interaction of female high school principals, whether during the time of attaining their position or while serving in their position, with their environment as defined by activity theory creates both barriers and supports that result in a complex web of tensions that are unique to the female experience. Most women felt the most support while attaining their positions. Finally, gender role theory continues to play a part in the perception of the high school principalship as a masculine endeavor.

Recommendations: Future research should be conducted on formal female-to-female support groups throughout California, the success of women principals who engage in the support structures available through structured leadership styles, the lived experiences and perceived barriers and support systems of male high school principals, perceived barriers and support systems of female elementary and/or middle school principals, behaviors that combat the perceived gender role discrepancy between female and male high school principals, the role of athletic coaching experience in the hiring of high school principals, the motivations that lead women to the high school principal position, the “unspoken” rules pertaining to the high school principal position, and the perception of personal power in regard to the high school principal position.