Date of Completion


Embargo Period



gender, leadership, education, degender, work, organizations, glass ceiling

Major Advisor

Dr. Davita Silfen Glasberg

Associate Advisor

Dr. Manisha Desai

Associate Advisor

Dr. Kim Price-Glynn

Associate Advisor

Dr. Bandana Purkayastha

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Gender, work, and organizations scholarship that focuses on women in relationship to leadership roles focuses on gendered experiences including sexual harassment (Chamberlain, Tope, Crowley, and Hodson 2008; McLaughlin, Uggen, and Blackstone 2012; Zippel 2006), glass ceilings (Williams 1992; 1995), mentoring and collegial work relationships (Britton 2000; Chalmers 2001; DeHart-Davis 2009; Kantola 2008; Lorber 1994; Martin 2003; Ridgeway 1997; Wallace 2014) and the work and family balance (Acker 1990; 1992; Cha 2013; Damaske 2011; Gerson 2010; Hochschild 1997; Kelly, Ammons, Chermack and Moen 2010; Macdonald 2010; Williams 2010). While gender research shows that women face exceptional disadvantages in the workplace, it does not specifically focus on redefining leadership roles so as to uncover a degendered vision of leadership. In this dissertation, inspired by feminist degendering movement literature (Lorber 2000; 2005), I consider the possibility of a degendered leadership that does not pose gendered limitations. My research questions are: 1) What role does gender play in the narratives of women and men leaders? 2) How might leaders’ gendering of leadership reproduce gender stereotypes? 3) What strategies might leaders and institutions of higher education use to degender leadership? and 4) What might degendered leadership look like? Through 34 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with women and men serving as deans, provosts, and presidents at colleges and universities throughout the United States, I examine degendered definitions of leadership that are rooted in expectations of the prototypical academic leader. Respondents indicated that effective academic leadership is evident through a leader’s prestige through credentials and publications, active engagement with institutional stakeholders (including students, faculty, staff members, alumni, the board of trustees, the community, and corporate and governmental partners) and ability to lead strategic institutional initiatives that are in line with the institutional culture. While past scholarship has emphasized the negative effects associated with gendering leadership and an individual’s behavioral capacity to lead, there is a need for more scholarship that focuses on degendering leadership through labeling and discourse. Through the narratives of my respondents, I fill this gap in the literature.