Women are occupying leadership roles in medical education, yet are underrepresented in senior leadership positions. This qualitative study explored the enabling and inhibiting factors that select women deans and department chairs experienced throughout their career ascent. The qualitative research included eight women, both deans and department chairs, in medical education. The deans and department chairs participated in an interview where the primary data were obtained. Qualitative research methods were used to analyze the data, and the findings were presented in narrative format. The findings were consistent with the literature review and reviewed similarities in enabling and inhibiting factors experienced. The findings suggest specific leadership styles, characteristics, and skillsets for aspiring deans and department chairs to consider. The recommendations suggest that women considering senior leadership positions in medical education may benefit from a gender-neutral workplace, which supports the professional growth of women through development opportunities in areas such as finance and strategic decision-making. A collaborative leadership approach, along with decision-making, flexibility, humility and confidence, were identified as common characteristics enabling leadership success. Women aspiring to obtain senior leadership positions may also benefit from encouragement and mentorship in obtaining department chair positions to better prepare them to move into dean roles.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Women deans (Education); Women college administrators; Medical education -- United States

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

McManus, John F.;