Updated: Apr 7

In 1995, the research on women in leadership suggested that if a woman wanted to get ahead in school administration that earning a doctorate would increase her hiring potential. Three grueling years later I completed the required coursework and moved on to the final step before receiving my degree, that of writing a dissertation. My chosen research thesis centered on the question of why only 18% of school superintendents were female when over 80% of teachers were female.

My dissertation chair, a woman with a strong presence in the university was an expert on gender studies and a strong supporter of my thesis. Before launching into my research, I was required to present my proposal to the university and gain their approval.

A few of the professors began to laugh amongst themselves as I presented my thesis to a room full of male professors. After my proposal was complete, the lead doctoral chair looked down at his notes and then replied, “Marilou your topic is genuine, but we just don’t think it’s appropriate for doctoral study. It seems like your work may be more suited for an article in Ladies Home Journal rather than a dissertation.

I was crushed and ran out of the room trying to hold back my emotions. Fortunately, my chair was not easily deterred. “Don't worry about a thing," she said, "I’ll take care of those guys, now get to work.”

She was impressive. Thanks to her, I completed my research two years later and used my findings to co-author a popular book for women on the gender divide called The SeXX Factor: Breaking the Unwritten Codes that Sabotage Personal and Professional Lives.


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