Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Fred J. Galloway, Ed.D. (Chair), Lea A. Hubbard, Ph.D., Robin McCoy, Ph.D.


aggression, bullying, efficacy, leader, mixed-methods, women


Despite advancements in education and hiring practices, women are still underrepresented in leadership roles. Contributing to this challenge is the conflict between communal expectations for women and agentic expectations for leaders which can cause some women to doubt their leadership capabilities. While encouragement from women can build leadership confidence, aggression can weaken it.

This convergent parallel mixed methods study explored the prevalence of female aggression among women leaders, the effect on leader efficacy, and response strategies. Women deans at doctoral granting universities were invited to complete an online survey that included the Negative Acts Questionnaire to assess aggression prevalence, the Generalized Leader Efficacy Questionnaire to measure leader efficacy, and a survey from the bullying literature to assess participant responses. Flanagan’s (1954) Critical Incident Technique allowed participants to elaborate on responses with open-ended questions. Of the 635 women deans invited, 306 (48.2%) participated.

Results showed that 68% of respondents experienced aggression from women. Closer analysis revealed law deans were more likely to report aggression experiences while applied science/business deans were less likely. Furthermore, nursing deans and women who identified as LGBTQ reported more frequent aggression than others. Greater levels of aggression were also reported when the aggressor was in a higher position or had the same experience level as the respondent. Findings include the most common forms of aggression and three theoretical constructs for what respondents believed contributed to the behavior.

While leader efficacy was negatively affected at the time of the experience, no statistical difference was found in current leader efficacy between women who experienced aggression and women who did not. Many women who experienced aggression, however, felt it ultimately increased their confidence. Additional analysis revealed age had a mitigating effect on leader efficacy and that African American women reported higher leader efficacy scores than women of other races. The most frequent response strategies included internal responses, engaging others, confronting the aggressor, or leaving the position.

Results from this study provide insight for how aggression may affect women leaders. Understanding how women experience and navigate through this could help individuals and organizational leaders better respond when impacted by this behavior.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies