Publication Date

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education



First Advisor

Stephen H. Wagner, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rashidah J. Muhammad, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Aurélio Manuel Valente, Ed.D.


This study focused on qualitative elements in its design. It sought to explore the process of women ascending to leaders in higher education unions and discover the barriers that derailed them or which they broke through on their leadership journey. It investigated the stereotypes and assumptions about women as leaders. The researcher looked at similarities and differences of the experiences of women in leadership roles to discover unknown phenomena within their unique experiences. Women in unions may be limited by proliferation of negative stereotypes and sexism. The purpose of this study was to explore the gender barriers of five women in higher education unions.

A qualitative study using grounded theory was used by the researcher. It was conducted in Illinois’ Chicagoland area. Three Caucasian and two African-American women were interviewed about their role as union president, how they were restricted or welcomed into the fold, how they were supported or not supported, and challenges that they faced.

Five major themes emerged from the five participant in the study. First, the presidents possessed extensive experience; next, they all had feelings of sisterhood. In addition, they all understood the importance of a union. Furthermore, they patterned their behaviors after their heroes. Most importantly, they all had an assertive (assured) personality.