Leadership professional development, mentoring, and support networks influence on leadership attainment of women administrators in higher education
Brossette, Alicia A.
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The purpose of this qualitative collective case study was to explore the experiences with and perceptions of women higher education administrators regarding their participation in leadership professional development, mentoring programs, and support networks; and how these influenced their ability to attain and maintain leadership positions. Of specific focus in this study were women who held upper-level administrative positions at the director, dean, vice president, provost, or chancellor (all levels). The study utilized a qualitative collective case study research design and was conducted through the lens of the interpretivist paradigm. The study was conducted at a public university system located in Texas, with the three study institutions from within the system. The participants were 15 women employed in leadership roles at one of the three study institutions in administrative positions at the director, dean, vice president, provost, or chancellor (all levels). Data for this study was collected through semi-structured interviews conducted face-to-face, by telephone, or by video conferencing. The interviews were audio recorded with the permission of the participants. The researcher also took field notes and used a reflective journal throughout the conduction of the study. Data analysis included the constant comparative method, as well as open and axial coding. Triangulation, peer debriefer, member checking, thick, rich descriptions of the participants’ voices as well as the conduction of the study were used to ensure trustworthiness of the study. The findings of this study revealed that the participants’ experiences with and perceptions of leadership professional development programming, mentoring programming, and support networks varied but were all identified as important to their career advancement. Themes that emerged to address the three research questions that guided the study included: 1) leadership professional development programming is important for women to advance into leadership, 2) women have different experiences with leadership professional development programming, 3) institutional support for leadership professional development programming varies, 4) opportunities to attend leadership professional development varies; 5) leadership professional development programs can help with leadership skill development; and 6) mentoring programming and support networks serve a role in career advancement. The findings of the study resulted in three implications and recommendations for higher education practice. The implications include access to leadership professional development specifically developed and structured for women in higher education is imperative to their career advancement, the quality and design of the leadership professional development programming offered by institutions could affect their ability to diversify their leadership, and higher education institutions need to provide intentional opportunities for women who aspire to be leaders to participate in leadership professional development, mentoring, and support networks. The recommendations for higher education practice are for institutions to develop structured and focused women’s leadership professional development programming, the quality and design of leadership professional development programming needs to be focused on the specific skills sets of women and people of color in order to help diversify higher education leadership, and that higher education institutions need to provide intentional opportunities – both internally and externally -- for women and people of color who aspire to be leaders to participate in leadership professional development, mentoring, and support networking opportunities. Future research recommendations include continuation of qualitative studies to explore the experiences and perceptions of women higher education administrators regarding their participation in professional leadership development, mentoring programs, support networks and how these influenced their ability to attain and maintain leadership positions.
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