This research focused on women leadership within the Catholic Church and the women leaders’ perceptions of their leadership effectiveness. The problem is that there is a lack of research that investigated perceptions of women and leadership within the Catholic Church. The purpose of the phenomenological qualitative study was to explore how women perceive themselves as leaders in the Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and how they see others’ perceptions of them as leaders in the Catholic Church in the greater Los Angeles area. A qualitative methodology with a phenomenological research design was used because there was a need to explore the lived experiences of individuals to understand the phenomenon under investigation. The researcher addressed this purpose by conducting long interviews with 30 purposefully selected participants who currently work in ministry or administrative roles in the Catholic Church in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The researcher used the feminist theory as a guide in conducting the data collection and analysis for the study. Analysis through the modified van Kaam method revealed themes of effectiveness, dedication, acceptance, servant leadership, calling, and a lack of resources. All participants reported perceiving gender-based barriers and a gender divide between them and male colleagues. Despite these obstacles, women accepted their roles as servants and leaders. Further study should be conducted to explore additional roles for women in the Church and to examine how gender-based obstacles and barriers might be effectively resolved both in the Los Angeles Archdiocese and elsewhere. Moreover, practical implication or recommendation for the study will be for the archdiocese to develop a formal mentorship program to prepare women to enter the leadership positions within the church. Also, the policy-based recommendation would be for representatives from the church, including women members, to write to the Archdiocese to promote awareness about the gender inequality that exists in the church leadership. These interactions with governing body of the church can help promote policy reforms to make leadership more accessible to women. Through policy reforms, women can be trained to be involved in tasks of high-level positions in the church.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Education; Catholic women -- California -- Los Angeles; Leadership in women -- California -- Los Angeles

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hiatt-Michael, Diana B.;