Educational Administration, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: October, 2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Mary L. Pflanz


Although the leadership norm continues to be male-oriented, more women are occupying positions of leadership in our society. The prevalent question has shifted from whether or not women can lead to how effectively they lead. To better understand the effectiveness of female community leaders, this qualitative research study explores the common features in the paths of women who have attained leadership positions. The stories of these women were derived by conducting ten interviews with women who are in positions of leadership within their communities. The interviews used open-ended questions to elicit personal responses from the interviewees, and phenomenological methods were used as a guide for analysis. Six core themes emerged from the statements collected in the interviews. The experience of female leadership includes issues of: power vs. influence, inciting change, role models, challenges and obstacles, self-efficacy and identity, and effectual styles. The journeys of these women are explored in concert with existing literature in the area of female leadership. Implications for career advancement, gender stereotyping, and role models for women in leadership capacities are highlighted in this study. The approach is one of constructivism, thereby making sense of the perspectives of female leaders through a feminist lens.

Adviser: Marilyn Grady