Exploring women's perceptions of work-family enrichment experiences influencing higher education leadership culture: An exploratory qualitative inquiry

by Thomas, Rebecca Jordan, Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2015, 213 pages; 3741500


U.S. higher education is in an alleged crisis state as its leadership has been minimally responsive to operating in a 21st Century environment. In the face of numerous challenges, its leadership lacks diversity, is male-dominated, and has not been welcoming to women. Women remain under-represented in higher education leadership positions; consequently they have had minimal opportunities to demonstrate how their work-family enrichment experiences provide them with unique insights, skills, and approaches to leadership. With women’s experiences not being fully recognized and utilized, U.S. higher education lacks a viable leadership component. The study offered the opportunity to identify what women believe they contribute to leading organizations and systems as a result of their work-family enrichment experiences. The research was guided by Scharmer’s (2009) and Scharmer and Kaufer’s (2013) leadership from the emerging future focusing on eco-system economies, Schein’s (2010) organizational leadership culture, Gharajedghi’s (2011) Systems Theory, and Tompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s (2012) Riding the Waves of Culture. The study examined women’s perceptions in the context of systems theory responding to the research question: “What are women’s perceptions of how their work-family enrichment experiences influence the higher education leadership culture?” The study utilized an exploratory qualitative inquiry to examine insights of 12 women leaders working in higher education. Inductive analysis was used to identify categories and themes from participants’ responses.

Overall, the findings were consistent with the research literature reviewed for the study. The results indicated the skills, insights, and experiences that women bring to their careers as a result of work-family enrichment experiences are indicative of 21st century leadership qualities necessary to successfully lead organizations and systems. Analysis of participants’ perspectives resulted in five themes: (1) possessing a sense of negotiation and integration as a leader, (2) practicing holistic thinking and seeking to understand the context, (3) believing in a learning-oriented leadership style, (4) desiring to have an awareness of and sensitivity to others, and (5) recognizing the potential of collective awareness and action. The study highlights the need for higher education to capitalize on the diversity of potential leaders by recognizing the contributions of women’s work-family enrichment experiences to systemic leadership.

AdviserMarilyn E. Harris
Source TypeDissertation
Publication Number3741500

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