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ERIC Number: ED559432
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 238
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3032-9163-0
Making Meaning of Adversity: Experiences of Women Leaders in Higher Education
Diehl, Amy B.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Despite the fact that women now earn more bachelor's, master's and doctorates than men, a gender gap for women leaders persists in the field of higher education. Women hold only 26 percent of all college and university presidencies with a large variance by type of institution. Women lead 33 percent of associate's level institutions but only 22 percent of doctorate-granting institutions. Extensive research has demonstrated that women aspiring to and serving as leaders face many barriers. The objective of this study was to discover the meaning of adversity in the lives of women leaders in higher education by documenting accounts of women who have navigated through obstacles, barriers and adversities. This study used qualitative research to understand the meanings which participants gave to their experiences with adversity. Twenty-six women holding senior leadership positions in higher education participated in this study. In-depth interviews were conducted to allow participants to recall their experiences with adversity and to reflect on the meanings of these experiences. Participants experienced wide-ranging types of adversity, including gender-based leadership barriers. While adversity had a generally positive effect on participant identity, it had disparate effects on self-esteem, power, connections to others and worldviews. The common thread was that adversity can lead to growth and opportunity but such benefits are intertwined with pain and loss. To make sense of adversity, participants spent time in a sensemaking cycle, in which they attributed meanings, chose actions, updated understandings, and revised predictions and assumptions about the future. Coming to a sense of closure related to participant self-esteem and empowerment. Participants who were unable to make sense of their adversities experienced decreased self-esteem and empowerment while participants who found a meaning or conclude that no meaning exists experienced increased self-esteem and empowerment. Despite the adversity they have faced, participants in this study have survived, and most have even thrived. In navigating adversity, these women actively reframed obstacles and barriers and increased their resilience and self-efficacy. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A