Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah Noonan, Thomas Fish, Aura Wharton-Beck


This phenomenological qualitative research study investigated Mennonite women with experience leading Mennonite high schools across the United States and Canada during their first year serving in the role of principal. This study gives voice to 12 Mennonite women leaders who felt God’s “call” to lead. Women leaderencountered bias due to an androcentric culture. Despite the many struggles and limited view of women in leadership, the women built campuses andacademic programs, mentored leaders, helped to transform students, and shaped communities as pioneeringleaders in Mennonite schools.

Feminist, organizational, and vocational theory provided several analytical lenses to interpret their experience. Feminist theory explained how women experienced and managed androcentric cultures in schools and communities. Bolman and Deal’s (2013) organizational theory (four frame model)explained how women’s leadership styles navigated authoritarian power and political structures, and became symbolic representation for a new style of leadership in Mennonite schools. Parker Palmer’s (1983/2010) vocational theory explained Mennonite women’s deep sense of being called by God, and how they learned to lead in androcentric, heirarchical church structured school communities.

The findings illustrate the potential of faith-based women leaders to empower and build community. The women shaped communities found mentors, networked, and developed a new norm for women in their communities. Implications and recommendations included building continued awareness and education in schools and community churches by addressing adult gender biases within the culture as well as educating younger children in nonbiased early education programs.


Mennonite, School, androcentric, feminist, organizational, vocational

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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