Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education and Organizational Leadership Development

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Tony Cawthon

Committee Member

Dr. Christy Brown

Committee Member

Dr. Kristin Frady

Committee Member

Dr. Cynthia Sims


This study focused on the issue that women are underrepresented in higher education executive and senior leadership roles at four-year colleges and universities in the United States (Dominici et al., 2009; Ginsberg et al., 2019; Gomez, 2020; Hannum et al., 2015; O’Conner, 2019; Smith, D., 2017; Teague 2015). A theoretical framework of intersectionality was used. Significant literature review findings were that the majority of studies on women in U.S. higher education leadership were qualitative and located at one university or in a single region of the country. Another finding was that more studies examining the races and ethnicity of these women leaders were needed.

I used a quantitative method and cross-sectional, secondary data analysis methodology to conduct logistic regression models on restricted use data from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients, a nationwide survey sponsored by the NSF and NIH with participants holding PhD degrees in science, engineering, and health fields. The use of NSF data does not imply NSF endorsement of the research methods or conclusions contained in this report.

An analysis of the data set trends showed that women, as compared to men, were underrepresented in senior and executive level leadership roles in each survey year and over time from 2003 to 2019. In 2019, only 42.5% of the roles of president/chancellor and provost were held by women at four-year colleges and universities that were not medical schools. A key finding was that the intersection of gender, race, and ethnicity was a strong predictor of an individual’s advancement from senior (dean, department chair/department head) to executive (president/chancellor, provost) level leadership positions.

There was a strong association between having children living in the household and a spouse or partner working full-time and a lower predicted probability of advancement, especially for women. Marital status and gender were not found to be useful predictors of advancement. There was moderate evidence that Hispanic women and American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and multiple race women had a lower predicted probability of advancement from senior to executive level leadership positions compared to White men, when controlling for years since having earned the first PhD.

Author ORCID Identifier




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