Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 1-1-2006


Worldwide Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Mary Breckenridge

Committee Member

Helen C. Sobehart

Committee Member

Melissa Gibson Hancox


Barriers, Gender, Gender Bias, Leadership, Obstacles, Socialization, Women


The shortage of women in leadership positions remains a far-reaching concern in all management arenas. Although the literature hints at the influence of the internal barriers of lack of self-confidence, poor self-esteem and the overwhelming attitude of instinctive male dominance, the literature fails to address the impact of early childhood themes on the development of these misconceptions. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of childhood themes on women's aspirations toward leadership as suggested by the Eccles Model of Achievement Related Choices. Early childhood gender related experiences of women in leadership and non-leadership roles were solicited using a qualitative, phenomenological approach. Interviews, focus groups, check lists, self-esteem measures and journaling were used to gather in-depth information from the participants. Themes prevalent in the childhood homes of the participants were identified, coded, sorted and compared relative to the Eccles model. The findings indicated that childhood messages regarding career options impact career choice. They also indicated that females are more likely to choose higher education when parental expectations include this aspiration and women are less likely to aspire to leadership roles when sent messages of female helplessness and submissiveness. The findings indicated that parental role models depicting gender-role stereotypes have little to do with the adult woman's educational and career choice. Parental levels of education were also not related to the educational and career choices made by the participants. The findings indicated that the messages sent to the participants about their own capabilities, and the expectations their parents held for them were of greatest impact. These messages formed the women's values regarding education, career choice and motherhood.