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Principal balance: Life role balance among women in secondary school administration

Melissa K Byington, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In recent years, the topic of work-life balance (life role balance) has grown significantly. Often the multiple roles held by one individual can be in regular competition. Many women administrators deal with multiple conflicting life roles on a regular basis. Their personal and professional roles are both time and energy intensive. Although many studies have examined women’s experiences in administration, none have directly addressed work life balance of women in educational administration.^ The purpose of this study is to understand and describe the perspectives practicing female secondary school administrators have on balancing the demands of multiple life roles. The research questions addressed female principal’s experience with respect to life role balance including barriers they report as women administrators; methods and strategies they use to negotiate the challenges of the role; and how they conceptualize life role balance.^ A qualitative multiple case study method was used. Nearly 500 secondary women administrators across five Midwestern states were invited to participate in an online survey to gather preliminary data and perceptions on the topic. Approximately 35% of the invited administrators completed the online survey. Nine women were selected from the survey respondents to participate in a follow up interview.^ Analysis of the data revealed themes regarding work experiences, personal/family experiences, life role overlap and conflict, and the payoffs women find in the field. The administrators identified social role expectations (as mothers and principals) and judgments, proving oneself in the field, sexism, and women’s approach to administration as themes. The women spoke extensively about the strategies and processes they use to negotiate the conflicting roles and how they conceptualize life role balance. Within their explanations is advice to other women administrators. The study concludes with a top ten list of priority items for women working to be successful in balancing the often conflicting roles of principal and wife/mother.^ Further research is needed in several areas such as wellness practices of educational administrators, comparisons between male and female administrators on life role balance, and more current research on women’s experience in administration.^

Subject Area

Education, Administration|Education, Secondary

Recommended Citation

Byington, Melissa K, "Principal balance: Life role balance among women in secondary school administration" (2010). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3428254.