From the beginning of women's entry into government and politics, namely the suffrage movement, the male lead political system did not embrace women's involvement. While women have played an influential role in the political system, they were largely relegated to supporting roles. However, within the past century, women have become a stronger force in policy making and continue to shatter the stereotypes that have persisted through the years. The purpose of this study was to examine how specific leadership traits and characteristics have contributed to the career progress of 6 elected women who represent California constituents within the local, state, and federal levels of the U.S. legislative system. By exploring the leadership traits and characteristics of women political leaders, this research can (a) contribute to the scholarly studies of women political leaders, (b) provide information for women who aspire to serve in a political office, (c) offer an oral history and a rare personal perspective of current-day women political leaders, and (d) further the dialog regarding women's participation in the political arena. This study used a qualitative design and an ethnographic research methodology to evaluate and elicit information on the shared experience of the elected women. The researcher used a purposive sampling strategy to select the participants who were women currently seated in elected positions at the local, state, and federal level of California government. Semi-structured interviews were conducted. Each participant was videotaped and the transcripts of the videotape, along with the notes were the data source for the study. The information was analyzed and grouped by themes. The data yielded 7 themes the participants self reported as the key traits, skills, and characteristics that are important to their political success: (a) responsibility, (b) sociability, (c) relationships, (d) consensus building, (e) self-confidence, (f) cooperativeness, and (g) persistence. The video analysis produced results that showed participants' nonverbal mannerisms were consistent with the themes they identified as important in their success.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Women politicians -- California; Leadership in women; Women -- Political activity -- California

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Schmieder, June;