Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl Getz, Ed.D., Chair; Lorri Sulpizio, PhD., Member; Rene Molenkamp, Ph.D., Member


Latina leadership, Latina, leader identity, leader identity development


Despite increasing gains in educational attainment and presence in the labor force, Latinas are systematically and disproportionately underrepresented in leadership positions across industries and leader levels in the United States. Latinas’ contributions are undervalued in the workplace. As of 2022, Latinas are subjected to the most severe wage gap in the nation, earning a paltry $0.49 to every dollar made by White men. Although sparse, the literature shows Latinas face systemic and cultural oppression; and without parity in leadership representation, Latinas are confronted with a lack of role models, mentors, and sponsors needed to advance professionally.

This study sought to understand the process by which Latinas develop a leader identity. The concept of leader identity refers to an individual’s self-concept as a leader. Leader identity development is inherently complex, and functions as both an internal and social process. Little is known about how Latinas form a leader identity in the United States. To address this gap in the literature, this qualitative study used grounded theory methodology to consider how Latinas make meaning of their leader identity development and what factors facilitate or hinder that process. Data collection consisted of two in-depth interviews with 15 Latina leaders and two focus groups. The study revealed Latinas cultivate a leader identity through external validation, striving for excellence, and adapting their persona to their professional environments. Over time, Latinas leverage their voice to advocate for themselves and their community. These findings are significant because they can address the gap in representation by informing culturally tailored leadership development for Latinas.

Document Type

Dissertation: USD Users Only


Leadership Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Thursday, May 09, 2024