Theoretical literature and empirical research confirmed the contracting profession is male dominated. Although there has been progression in the total representation, women remain critically underrepresented in leadership roles, specifically, executive management within the contracting profession. The number of women holding C-suite titles such as, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Executive Vice President remain low. A democratic leadership view ceases to exist if there is a lack in representation, despite gender. An equitable distribution of organizational power between genders is imperative.

The primary focus of this qualitative study is to understand barriers faced by women in the contracting profession and how these barriers impact underrepresentation of women in leadership. A phenomenological approach was used to interview participants, which allowed the researcher to capture real life experiences to infer similarities and differences. In-depth interviews were conducted with 19 female professionals in the field of contract management who were employed in Government, Nonprofit and Private sectors. Participants in this study varied from different states, career backgrounds and organizational culture. Several themes emerged during the interviews concerning current representation, obstacles, strategies, best practices and recommendations.

This study is a representation of today’s contracting environment and best practices employed by todays contracting professionals. Understanding the obstacles women face and strategies used to influence career advancement will help women prepare for challenges. Many women spoke about experienced biases in the sense of pre-conceived ideas or knowledge that resulted in unfair treatment. Conclusions of this study reveal there has been progression in the contracting profession as findings reveal there is now equal representation of genders in leadership. The findings of this study cannot be generalized to a larger population but results conclude there are initiatives in place for diversity, equity and inclusion within the field.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Contractors' operations—Women; Leadership in women; Mentoring

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Martine Jago