Joan Barry

Principal, St. Mary's School; Member of WISE

It was hard sometimes to work with parents or administrators who didn’t value women to the degree I think—they didn’t like smart women. It’s changed, but in the beginning, it was very much that way. You sort of had to prove yourself over time. So, you were never a part of the old boy network. All these men would come into a meeting and they would joke, but never with the women administrators. But more and more women became administrators. Then they had no choice.  And now if you look, more and more women are school principals than ever before.


Born in 1947 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Joan Barry moved to Worcester at four years old, so her father could run his business as a funeral director. Joan attended Framingham State University where she earned her BA in administration. Shortly after she attended Columbia University for her master’s degree. Joan got a job as an assistant principal at Saint Mary’s Middle School where she worked for 8 years. She explains that she got her first job as a principal during a time when it was very unlikely because the positions were mostly filled with football coaches. Joan was on the front page of the newspaper and they made it seem as if she was not qualified enough for the job. She talks about the changes in Worcester from when she was growing up to present day. She says that growing up in Worcester it was more of a predominantly white town and as time went on it ended up becoming more diverse with minorities. Back then minorities, especially women, needed mentors or more resources to be successful. Now Joan says that minorities have a lot more opportunities. Joan’s advice to women today is that you can achieve anything you want, you just have to be willing to work hard at it.     

Interview Date: 
October 17, 2019
Interview Focus: