Date of Conferral







Teresa Lao


The United States Department of Labor indicated that women represent 46.8% and men represent 53.2% of the United States’ 16 years and older civilian labor force. An estimated 52% of adult women compared to 48% of men participating in the civilian labor force held a bachelor’s degree or higher, and women represented 47% of the management and professional sector’s positions. Women occupy 25% of C-suite positions in the Standard & Poor 500 companies. In higher education, 30% of college presidents are women. Women continue to face several barriers as they try to move into senior executive leadership positions. The specific problem involves how women overcome gender, organizational, and societal barriers as they try to occupy senior executive leadership positions within nonprofit academic institutions. There is a disconnect between available qualified women and their representation in senior executive leadership positions. The purpose of this study was to examine barriers experienced by women seeking to enter senior executive positions and methods they can use to overcome these barriers effectively. A descriptive case study approach was used to interview nine female and seven male senior executive participants who represented nonprofit academic institutions located in the Memphis metropolitan area. NVivo Pro 12 was used to help analyze interview data and identify recurrent themes. Participants’ responses identified gender bias and pipeline deficit barriers indicated that congruity theory is relevant as women try to increase their presence in senior executive leadership roles. This study will contribute to positive social change by increasing the number of women occupying senior executive leadership positions not only in higher education institutions but also in other professions.