Latina Efficacy: Advocate, Inspire, and Take Charge

Latina Efficacy: Advocate, Inspire, and Take Charge

Sonia Rodriguez (National University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7582-5.ch009


School systems are notorious for resisting change and this causes moral and ethical dilemmas for those seeking equality within these settings. The primary barrier to current social movements is often the weariness of school organizations. Leaders who are tired of seeing the inequality in schools become the voice of change. Their mission is to make a difference, but ethical dilemmas may heighten when confronting social injustice within school systems. Although the Hispanic enrollment is schools has increased, Latina leadership remains unnoticed, and Latina superintendents are underrepresented in the superintendency. This chapter focuses exclusively on Mexican American female superintendents and portrays their ethical dilemmas while leading schools in what some may consider challenging school districts. There are distinct patterns in the types of school districts that Mexican American female superintendents choose to lead and they demonstrate a personal drive and commitment for improving educational opportunities for all children, regardless of social economic status and ethnicity.
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The origin of power aligns with the construction of social norms which have restricted leadership roles to women in fields that have been masculinized. White males have historically dominated the top leadership positions in school organizations within a vertical and patriarchal model; where the White man is at the top of the organizational structure and minority groups at the bottom (Brunner, 1999, 2000, 2002; Blount, 1996; Grogan, 1996, 2005; Galloway, 2006; Tallerico, 2005). The number of women in leadership roles remains scarce, even though, research supports the notion that leadership based on women’s way of knowing can facilitate equity and more inclusive school environments (Irby & Brown, 2002). Furthermore, studies have indicated the importance of promoting leaders of color who can serve as role models for students of color (Jackson, 1999; Nicholson, 1999; Ortiz, 1999). Historically, research on educational administration has often been written by men about men while research on female superintendents has not been extensive (Brunner, 2002; Grogan, 2000; Tallerico, 1999). The majority of research on women in educational leadership spotlights White female administrators and women of color have been unnoticed. Researchers examining school leaders have paid relatively little attention to the life experiences and careers of ethnic minority women and there are fewer researchers of color who explore leadership characteristics of Mexican American female superintendents.

Latinas in leadership have shared personal stories of ethical problem solving when advocating for equitable education (Rodriguez, 2014). This chapter provides insight on Latina leadership as it relates to Mexican American cultural identity and ethical dilemmas in educational leadership. The stories of six Mexican American female superintendents are portrayed, Rita Chavez, Dr. Gabriella Evans, Catherine Garcia, Dr. Irma Gonzalez, Rebecca Roberts, and Dr. Isabel Salinas. These women of color took charge of their career goals, dared to take risks in educational leadership and are an exclusive group of Mexican American women in a profession that has been governed by White males. Their stories will inoculate other women to overcome the conventional barriers that exist in schools and understand the value of “self” to take charge of their professional goals while making ethical decisions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Superintendent: Refers to the chief executive officer of a school district, this is the highest-ranking administrative position for the school district and their role includes leading and managing the district’s educational programs, district finances, human resources, and facilities.

Latinx: Is used to identify in a gender-neutral term persons of Latin American ancestry or origin.

Educational Leader: Refers to the district or campus administrator or other whose roles are to identify the educational needs of student achievement and recommend activities and strategies for improving student learning.

Latina: Is used to refer to a female of Latin American ancestry or origin who lives in the United States. It is used synonymously with Hispanic. Latino is perceived as connoting racial differences, while Hispanic is seen as race neutral referring to persons of Spanish-speaking origin.

Mexican American: Refers to American citizens who were born in the United States, are from Mexican descent and self-identify as a Mexican American. Their social-political factors and heritage differ from other Hispanic and Latinx groups.

Chicanism: Refers to the feminist political ideology and social movement for women of Mexican origin and descent, with a goal to define social equalities for Mexican American women that related to both gender and ethnicity biases.

Chicana: Refers to women of Mexican descent born and/or raised in the United States. The term Chicana (and Chicano) came into popular usage during the Chicano movimiento (movement) of the 1960s and 70s as Mexican-American activists sought to define a cultural and political identity for themselves as a United States citizen of Mexican American descent. This term is most commonly used in California.

Ethnicity: Refers to a socially and culturally defined group that share common ancestors.

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