Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Chairperson Lea A. Hubbard, PhD, Committee Member Kathryn Bingham, PhD, Committee Member


glass-ceiling, high-tech, startups, corporate, gender, social roles, leadership, diversity


The literature is replete with evidence of the proliferation of women entering into the workplace, their remarkable progress in attaining higher education, their overrepresentation in professional and management roles, and their placement in CEO leadership positions in certain high-profile S&P 500 global companies. Yet women continue to be noticeably underrepresented in leadership roles, especially in high tech companies. Through the lenses of social constructivist and feminist theories of gender stereotypes, social/gender roles, and role congruity expectations, this instrumental case study was conducted to gain insight into the reasons women are underrepresented in leadership roles in high tech and the ways some women have successfully challenged the glass ceiling. Participants were executive women (n = 5) and men (n = 5) in high tech. To allow discussions about gender inequity to emerge organically while still using interviewees’ time efficiently, data were generated using a semi-structured protocol. Key findings about factors that supported women’s ascension into leadership positions in high tech companies that emerged from a thematic analysis of the interview data included the perceived influence of personal and professional support, an encouraging company culture, and personal characteristics that appear to contribute to a woman’s ascension to high-level leadership positions in high tech companies. Perceived challenges to leadership ascension included negative company cultures; a lack of leadership development opportunities and a lack of advancement opportunity, generally; self-selection out of the process; a failure to manage failure; and, for certain women, pregnancy and motherhood.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies