The California State University (CSU) system is the largest public university system in United Sates. In 2014, female student population was 56% and 42% were male. Overall, there are higher percentage of female students than male students in the CSU system, yet there are only 10 female Provosts in the CSU system. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore and describe the career journeys of women Provosts in the CSU system in order to learn more about: (a) what factors have motivated these women to executive leadership roles in the CSU system, (b) their career pathways, (c) any obstacles they may have encountered and addressed on their career pathways, and, (d) any mentoring support they may have received on their career pathways. This study described the career journeys of seven female CSU Provosts. This study was a qualitative portraiture design. Interviews consisting of 16 questions were conducted in person or over the phone. Nine themes emerged from the analysis of the interview. The themes were prior leadership experience, the mission of the CSU system, traditional and non-traditional career pathways, being female, balancing family and career, gender-based obstacles, formal and informal mentoring, and lastly female mentoring. This study had four conclusions. First, CSU women Provosts concluded that the CSU mission and vision motivated women to their current role and the connection to the system. Second, the CSU system supports both traditional and non-traditional pathways to the Provost position. Third, like other women leaders, CSU Provost continue to face challenges in their executive career pathways. The main conclusion for the challenges was balancing family and career, in addition to gender-based obstacles. Finally, the study concluded that women CSU Provosts had role models and different styles of mentorship throughout their education and career pathway towards leadership roles.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational leadership, administration, and policy; California State University -- Administration; Women deans (Education) -- California; Educational leadership -- California

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Purrington, Linda;