Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership

Committee Director

Mitchell R. Williams

Committee Member

Dana D. Burnett

Committee Member

Roger J. Brenner


As community college presidents, chief operating officers (CEOs), and other senior level administrators plan to retire, the critical demand for qualified leaders brings greater focus on previous trends and current statistics in community colleges leadership. These findings provide evidence of the continuing underrepresentation of women in senior level leadership positions. Further investigation examines women leaders’ perceptions of the barriers or impediments to their advancement into these leadership positions. The purpose of the current study was to examine the perceptions of impediments of women community college leaders in a variety of institutional settings (rural, suburban, urban).

The literature provided an inventory of barriers that community college women leaders have identified through their personal and professional experiences and their perceptions of obstacles to their advancement. For the current study, this inventory of impediments guided the design of a survey instrument intended to gather data for the perceptions of women community college leaders to this inventory of impediments. Participants in community colleges in eleven southeastern states responded to professional and institutional demographic questions and a five-point Likert-type modified barriers scale of 24 impediments to advancement.

Findings in the present study confirmed the continuing existence of obstacles to women leaders’ advancement. Balancing professional and personal life, hiring or promotion practices and policies, and the “‘good ol’ boys’ network” and culture of power were the impediments with the highest mean scores by types of impediments. Overall, the impediment with the highest mean score was the existence of a “‘good ol’ boys’ network”. Among the three types of impediments, organizational culture impediments received the highest composite mean score.

Women leaders continue to perceive barriers to their advancement in community colleges. These impediments may be personal or organizational in origin, but the identification of the impediments offers opportunities for reflection and change within the leaders and their current institutions. Recommendations for prospective women leaders and community college practitioners and leaders include understanding the existence of impediments to advancement, strengthening hiring and promotion practices, and enhancing diverse institutional structure and culture.


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