Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Daniel M. Miller, PhD, Chair; Robert Donmoyer, PhD; Fred J. Galloway, EdD


career pathways, Flag Officers, gender, Leadership studies, Navy Admiral, qualitative, United States Navy, women


A significant disparity exists between the numbers of male and female personnel among high-ranking officers serving in the U.S. Navy. The general perception is that women have not been part of the Navy long enough to be in the flag officer's ranks. However, it has been over 30 years since the Navy first placed women in the ranks of flag officers. The purpose of the study is to trace the most common professional career paths followed by male and female flag officers in the U.S. Navy and to examine how certain aspects of a military career might have influenced selection to the ranks of flag officer. In addition, this study explored: (1) how female flag officers visualized their roles, (2) what factors they viewed as important or prerequisites for promotion today, and (3) their opinion regarding the limited number of female flag officers in the Navy. The following research questions guided this study: 1. What are the most common career paths among active duty officers that reach the rank of admiral (O-7 or above) in the United States Navy and what aspects of their careers might have influenced selection to flag officer? 2. What factors do female flag officers view as required for promotion to higher ranks and what do they believe is the most significant contributor to the disparity between the number of male and female flag officers? The method used to address the first research question employed the use of frequencies to analyze most commonly held positions in the career paths of all naval flag officers. The method used to get at the second research question included qualitative analyses of interviews with five female flag officers. There were four positional themes that emerged from both the document and interview data sets. Naval flag officers most often had assignments in the following areas: military headquarters, sea and operational duty, command, and joint staff duty. Most prominent were positions at military headquarters, with some participants having been at these commands three to five times. The interview data also revealed four additional themes. The female flag officers found that mentoring, leadership styles, the changing of women's roles in the military, and personal and professional challenges were important factors in attaining the rank of Admiral.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access