Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

René Parmar

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Ciabocchi

Third Advisor

Catherine DiMartino


Research exploring gender status in higher education continue to show women’s enrollment at colleges and universities to outpace their male counterparts at both undergraduate and graduate levels (Johnson, 2016; Longman & Madsen, 2014). However, women pursuing careers in the field of higher education administration are advancing to positions as presidents, provosts, vice presidents or deans at disproportionately lower rates than men (Ballenger, 2010; Galiardi, Espinosa, Turk & Taylor, 2017; Johnson, 2016; Kim & Cook, 2013; King & Gomez, 2008). The barriers they face in pursuing senior leadership roles entail variables which are both multi-faceted and multi-layered. This phenomenological qualitative research study examined some of the pivotal factors— which can impact women’s advancement to senior executive administration in higher education—through an exploration of the lived experiences of four women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, currently in senior leadership positions at various colleges and universities. The study sought to uncover their individual journeys to senior leadership including barriers they may have encountered, the support systems which may have assisted in their ascension, as well as the intersections and differences in their lived experiences. While the study unveiled challenges some of the women experienced in academe, prior to and during their roles as senior administrators, the findings revealed high self-efficacy, strong spousal support, strong sponsorship, skillfulness, and a minimum of 20 years of professional experience in higher education to be common threads among each of the women.

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