Date of Conferral







Stephanie Hoon


Many women struggle to move up the career ladder. Women aspiring to executive positions in community colleges within the United States may face gender barriers, family-work life barriers, and barriers regarding their leadership ability. The problem studied was a gap in knowledge of how women succeeded in attaining executive positions in community colleges. The purpose of this study was to examine ways that female leaders at Southern California community colleges assumed executive-level roles at their institutions and the barriers they faced to attain those positions . The theory of upward mobility and the concept of self-efficacy comprised the study's conceptual framework. The research questions in this qualitative case study focused on barriers to women's upward mobility and ways that women overcame these barriers. Face-to-face structured interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of 12 women who held positions of vice president or above at 8 Southern California community colleges within 2 counties. Interview data were coded using clustering and classification and resulted in 3 themes per research question. The results suggested that executive leaders must demonstrate communication savviness to address difficult situations, engage in active information searching and empower others through helpful communication. Findings of the study suggest formal mentorship was crucial for women in their quest for leadership roles. Prospective female leaders in higher education may be able to use the study results in navigating their careers. Positive social change may result with the greater visibility of women in executive leadership roles, thereby leading to reduced gender disparities and women achieving their highest potential in the workplace.