Pauline Avis

First Advisor

Cohen, Michael

Document Type


Date Created



To meaningfully capture the lived experiences of women educational leaders working in American public schools, this study utilized the qualitative traditional research design and employed an embodied narrative inquiry to explore the primary research question: How do women educational leaders story their gendered experience of employment in the workplace? The purpose of this study was to describe and explore how female educational leaders in American public schools perceive the impact that gender identity construction has had on their ability to pursue successfully, attain, and retain educational leadership roles. Through a feminist semiotics theoretical lens, this study offers an examination of how gender identity construction intersects with cultural ideas around leadership and shapes women’s professional experiences working in public school settings. The participants within this study included five female educational leaders who served in educational leadership roles in U.S. public schools. Data were collected during remote interviews with a standardized open-ended interview format. Thematic and structural narrative analysis revealed four interconnected themes that were used to organize the data: (1) The Subject in Space; (2) The Subject Doing Leadership; (3) The Subject Speaking Leadership; (4) The Subject Sensing Leadership. The findings were presented through a series of non-metrical, free-verse data poems created from the more extended narratives transcribed from the full interviews. The Subject in Space was explored through the lens of ‘emplacement.’ The Subject Doing Leadership was looked at using ‘body pedagogy’ theory. The Subject Speaking Leadership was investigated with the idea of ‘situated embodiment.’ The Subject Sensing Leadership was examined through the lens of scholars who have theorized the connection between food, embodiment, and gender. The discussion connected the research findings surrounding the perspectives of women educational leaders to the need for greater transparency into how gender identity effects women while serving in educational leadership roles. Furthermore, organizational and systemic implications were shared that encouraged stakeholders in American public schools to raise awareness around the ways that women’s experiences counter enduring cultural myths that posit that gender no longer presents unique challenges in the workplace. Keywords: embodiment, gender identity, narrative inquiry, gender identity, genderwashing, narrative inquiry, semiotics theory, women educational leadership.


155 pages

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Copyright is held by the author.