In higher education leadership, the proportion of women in senior-level positions has grown very modestly. This stagnation is present in representation in leadership as well as in wage equality. Although institutions and organizations have policies and practices aimed at improving diversity and equity, ongoing underrepresentation indicates that barriers, lack of interest, or other unidentified factors influence women's opportunities for achieving senior-level leadership positions. To help address the ongoing underrepresentation of women in senior-level leadership in higher education, I have focused this dissertation on women's experiences in mid-level leadership positions. In this study, I use grounded theory to examine women's leadership experiences in higher education. Findings indicate that women's experiences of developing a career identity and navigating the institutional climate include setting boundaries, prioritizing values, and experiencing blocked opportunities. Those invested in recruiting women into senior-level leadership should consider the environment, and future research should focus on diverse individuals' experiences both within and outside of the higher education context.


Jennifer J. Preston

First Committee Member

Richard Auger

Second Committee Member

Penny Rosenthal

Third Committee Member

John Seymour

Date of Degree




Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Counseling and Student Personnel



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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