Women account for more than 50% of college graduates, more than 50% of professional degrees such as M.D. and J.D., and more than 50.0% of management, professional, and related occupations (Labor, 2011). However, women hold only 14.3% of executive officer positions of the Fortune 500 companies, and the number of female CEOs at these companies is 3.8% (Catalyst, 2012). Given these statistics, a natural shift to a more gender-balanced senior management should be a reasonable, expected outcome. In addition, research in the past decade lead by Daniel Goleman (1995, 2000, 2004) has identified an individual's emotional intelligence as a key aspect and driver of leadership effectiveness. Emotional intelligence assessments have found women and men to be equally as intelligent emotionally, but they are strong in different areas or attributes which are considered gender-specific. This mixed method phenomenological study was grounded in research by Goleman (1998, 2000, 2004) and Bar-On (2005) which explored emotional intelligence as it relates to leadership and success in organizations. The purpose of this research study was to apply Goleman's leadership theory and Bar-On's gender-related emotional intelligence in a way that examines the possible relationship between gender-specific emotional intelligence attributes and women's career advancement in a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company. Twelve participants at four levels of the company were selected - vice president, director, manager, and administrative assistant. Each participant completed the EQ-i 2.0 assessment followed by a 30-minute in-depth interview. The data was analyzed to assess specific EQ attributes, and to understand each participant's lived experiences with leadership, emotional intelligence, and gender bias or barriers. Women at the vice president level had group mean EQ scores that were higher in the male-specific EQ attributes, and women at the manager level had group mean EQ scores that were higher in female-specific attributes, which suggests that women adapt their EQ attributes as they rise to ranks of leadership. To help close the leadership gap and address barriers that women face, the researcher recommends that organizations provide diversity training, mentoring programs, robust talent management, EQ education and training, and leadership support from the top.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Women executives; Leadership in women; Emotional intelligence; Executive ability; Management -- Psychological aspects

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Rhodes, Kent;