Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Andrea Beach

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. Marlene Kowalski-Braun


Gender and leadership, gender inequality, female leadership, higher education leadership


There is a significant gender disparity in the highest leadership levels in Dominican universities. Research argues that in traditionalist societies and in some developing countries particularly, it is increasingly challenging for women to make it to top leadership. To achieve a fuller understanding of the current context for female leadership within Dominican higher education, there is a need for research that can serve to establish an initial framework of information about the experiences of female leaders.

The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to understand the experiences of women who occupy leadership positions in Dominican universities. Feminist standpoint epistemology enabled the critical examination of society through women’s everyday experiences in their journeys into leadership. Through individual narratives, the study gives voice to women who have worked their way to positions of leadership, providing a better understanding of Dominican social dynamics, its culture and history. Study participants were five women occupying dean and vice-chancellor positions. Data was collected through in-depth interviews and through women’s visual and oral representations of their journeys, which they described using metaphors and analogies. Women in the study expressed being grateful for the opportunities they have been given and described their journeys as a growth process. Participants reported facing obstacles mainly influenced by gender and age. The challenges reported by participants refer to female rivalry, constant proving of their capabilities, taking on leadership roles under challenging circumstances and the pressures and demands they face due to the many roles they undertake. The study found that patriarchy and machismo permeate organizational and social dynamics, affecting women’s progress to the highest levels of leadership in universities, especially the university presidency. Finally, an emergent finding from the study suggests there is an influence of religion particularly on women’s self-conception regarding their primary roles as caregivers. Research on the influence of religion and the social dynamics that continue to place men’s power over women in the personal and professional spheres is recommended for further understanding women’s experiences in leadership in higher education and Dominican society as a whole.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access