Date of Award



© 2021 Kristen Card

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Michelle Collay

Second Advisor

Andrea Disque

Third Advisor

Ariana Balayan


The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the professional experiences and opportunities of female leaders in the field of higher education as they sought professional advancement. The researcher focused on leaders in contemporary, online colleges and universities, where women have achieved career advancement at higher rates than in traditional college and university settings. The study documented participants’ experiences of leadership and their perspectives regarding how leadership skills are defined and measured in the context of contemporary higher education institutions. The literature review includes environmental elements and ideologies related to successful leadership currently evident in higher education.

Four themes were identified in this study that impact female leaders’ career advancement opportunities, definitions of successful leadership, and the impact of professional development and growth supported by educational institutions. They included: 1) career trajectories and opportunities, higher education’s impact on career advancement opportunities, and observations and experiences of leadership advancement; 2) characteristics that define successful leadership in higher education, the environment’s impact on defining successful leadership, and supporting career advancement; 3) impact of mentoring on career advancement opportunities; and 4) professional development opportunities for women at online colleges and universities. This research study identified existing gaps in the literature and highlighted opportunities for further research regarding examining career advancement opportunities for female leaders within the context of online higher education, and how effective leadership principles are defined and influenced by those leading in online education.


Ed.D. Dissertation