Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2013


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

James Henderson

Committee Member

Judith Griggs

Committee Member

Peter Miller


Female leaders in higher education administration, Gender discrimination in higher education, Gender stereotypes, Leadership stereotypes, Women and leadership, Women in higher education


Women are underrepresented as leaders in most facets of American work life. While present in fields that are traditionally feminine, there is a scarcity of women leaders in all other occupations including business, government, science and technology, agriculture, education in general and higher education in particular. While women currently comprise the majority of our enrolled college students as well as our graduates, they are not present as leaders among those responsible for running our colleges and universities. Women hold 23% of presidential positions, 31% of executive vice president roles, 38% of chief academic officer positions, and 36% of deanships. Women are much more likely to hold positions as directors of human resources (70%), continuing education (65%), community services (60%), and chief diversity officer (56%).

Eagly and Karau (2002) suggest that the paucity of women leaders is due in part to gender role stereotypes. Women are stereotypically viewed as warm, caring, and nurturing as well as indecisive, emotional, and passive and have earned this reputation due to the role they've played in society. These stereotypes, however, carry over into the workplace, and women are not viewed as having the qualities necessary to be leaders, as leaders are considered to be decisive, rational, and strong. Eagly and Karau's role congruity theory of prejudice toward women leaders states that a prejudice toward women leaders develops due to the incongruity between the two stereotypes, and, as a result, women will have less access to leadership opportunities and will face greater obstacles as they enact leadership roles.

This dissertation presents a qualitative study intended to explore the impact of stereotypes on women as leaders in higher education administration. A multiple case study design was employed, and three women leaders below the levels of president, chief academic officer, and dean were interviewed. The semi-structured interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded for themes as the responses related to the research questions. The findings of this study confirm the presence of stereotypes in the settings in which the women worked, and these stereotypes resulted in the expectation that the women behave in accordance with their gender role. When seeking leadership roles, the women were passed over in favor of men who were equally or less qualified. While enacting leadership roles, they were challenged, criticized, and were subject to acts of retaliation and discrimination. In summary, their experiences mirrored the consequences for women leaders that Eagly and Karau (2002) describe.