Date of Conferral







Gary L. Lacy


The number of women in senior administrative and leadership roles in higher education is minimal compared to the number of women in higher education jobs in general. This phenomenological study explored pathways women took to advance in their careers and barriers that prevent more women from gaining senior administrative and leadership roles. Research questions addressed perceived barriers participants faced while trying to advance their careers, mentoring and other support strategies women in higher education employed to help them move up the career ladder, and actions female leaders took in order to help establish gender equity. Dambe and Moorad's empowerment-based/transformational leadership theory, Vroom's expectancy theory, and hooks's feminist theory were used as conceptual frameworks for this study. Data collection included in-depth interviews and gestural observations. Data were triangulated through member check, debriefing, iterative questioning, and reflective commentary. Titchen's thematic data analysis and the hermeneutic circle were used to analyze data; analysis was validated by an independent auditor. Mentoring and networking were identified as effective tools for gaining executive skills. Political savvy, determination, and serendipity were factors to which participants attributed success. Based on study results, higher education institutions should focus on succession planning to bring more women into senior leadership roles. The age gap for female senior leaders in higher education is an area for further study. This study may support positive social change by providing female leaders the opportunity to understand the nature of higher education and subsequently to develop strategies and to gain constructive experiences that can improve their status.