Date of Award

2016

Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea Hubbard, Ph.D.; Cheryl Getz, Ed.D.; Robert Donmoyer, Ph.D.

Keywords

generals, leadership, marine corps, military, success, women

Abstract

Contemporary organizations are increasingly realizing that future success requires a significant shift in leadership due to globalization, flattened organizational command and control structures, rapid technology growth, and the shift from manufacturing to service industries. Specifically, current leaders and scholars have begun to recognize the importance of employee diversity within organizations, and in particular the critical need to tap into the underutilized half of the population—women. Yet, the efforts to recruit, develop or retain women has been minimal, leading to metaphors such as glass ceiling and labyrinth, which characterize the institutional, social and personal barriers women encounter when seeking high-level leadership positions.

While many women have pushed past these barriers, the current body of literature tends to focus more on the challenges that serve to hold women back. As a result, there are few studies of highly successful women in high-level leadership positions, and even fewer of those that have examined successful women in male-dominated career fields such as the United States Marine Corps. Although the organization is noted for rigid institutional barriers and pervasive gender bias, women have been able to achieve the highest positions of responsibility within the the Corps’ general-level ranks.

This exploratory case study/cross-case analysis examined the career trajectories of eight of the ten women Marines who achieved the rank of general, revealing the complexity of navigating success in the male-dominated context of the Marine Corps. An exploration of personal, organizational, and cultural influences revealed three themes consistent across the women generals: a willingness to settle for short-term career goals, the privileging of their Marine identity, and a strong affinity with the core values of the Corps’ culture. Beyond this, the women generals attributed their success to an array of differing strategies, motivations, and decisions. As Brigadier General Reals concluded, “There is no magical path or yellow brick road” leading to success of women in the Marine Corps. This inquiry not only offers a rare glimpse into the careers of successful military women, but also provides greater understanding of some of the factors that support and challenge leadership achievement for women more generally.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access

Department

Leadership Studies

Share

COinS