Term of Award

Fall 2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Teri Denlea Melton

Committee Member 1

Meca Williams-Johnson

Committee Member 2

Lina Soares


Women encounter significant barriers as it relates to their gender and leadership traits. The strong patriarchal system has made it more difficult for women to advance in higher education. Research has previously examined a number of factors, including characteristics, institutional influences, and practice efforts to increase the representation of women in leadership in higher education. However, exploring the persistence of gender inequality at the highest ranks of executive leadership is essential to understanding the underrepresentation of women in executive leadership positions in higher education (Bonebright, Cottledge & Lonnquist, 2012; White, 2012). Even though women have been a part of higher education for decades, only recently have they been highlighted in the research and literature pertaining to higher education, particularly executive leadership.

This thematic and interpretive review considers gender and highlights organizational cultural barriers that further limit the advancement of women into executive leadership positions in higher education. The leadership journey and experience of five women serving in the role of Chief Academic Officer Positions (Provosts/Associate Provosts) in the Southeast United States, specifically the University System of Georgia were explored. Findings included opportunities presented to them through their hard work and dedication, the challenge of balancing personal and professional lives, understanding the importance of holding true to personal values, and the encouragement of mentors.

INDEX WORDS: Case Design, Gender, Organizational Culture, Executive Leadership, Intersectionality

Research Data and Supplementary Material