unlimited access with print and download

Free

Continue searching

Burden of leadership: Re-envisioning the glass ceiling based on constructs of race, gender, and ethnicity

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Dorothy A Witherspoon
Abstract:
This qualitative, phenomenological study re-envisions the glass ceiling based on constructs of race, gender, and ethnicity. The study explores the experiences and perceptions of 26 women and minority Federal government senior executives regarding the glass ceiling phenomenon in the government's Senior Executive Service (SES) leadership corps. The study included a modified van Kaam method of analysis by Moustakas (1994) to explore and describe the glass ceiling, and implications for career advancement. A diverse group of participants representing African-American, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, and Hispanic males and females participated in semi-structured audio-taped and transcribed telephone interviews. A preponderance of extant studies on the glass ceiling omits the experiences of minority men and women or considers minority groups as an afterthought. Caucasian women were also included in the study group to obtain a holistic view of how the glass ceiling is perceived in the Federal government. A burden-of-leadership theoretical framework developed by the researcher conceptualized multifaceted complexities in the glass ceiling phenomenon. The research is important given current workforce diversity and future workforce trends, which makes it imperative that the face of leadership in the Federal government reflect the face of America (Naff, 2001).

vi TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES .......................................................................................................... xiii LIST OF FIGURES ........................................................................................................ xiv CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................1 Background ..........................................................................................................................1 Federal Glass Ceiling Commission .................................................................................5 Federal Government Senior Executive Service ...............................................................6 Problem Statement ...............................................................................................................8 Purpose Statement ..............................................................................................................10 Significance of the Study ...................................................................................................11 Significance of the Study to Leadership ............................................................................12 Nature of the Study ............................................................................................................13 Research Questions ............................................................................................................14 Theoretical Framework ......................................................................................................16 Definitions..........................................................................................................................20 Assumptions .......................................................................................................................22 Scope ..................................................................................................................................23 Limitations ........................................................................................................................24 Delimitations ......................................................................................................................24 Summary ............................................................................................................................25 CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ...........................................................27 Title Searches and Documentation ....................................................................................28 Historical Overview ...........................................................................................................31

vii Germinal Research .............................................................................................................32 Federal Glass Ceiling Commission ................................................................................34 Federal Workforce and the Glass Ceiling ..........................................................................36 Senior Executive Service ...............................................................................................36 Conceptualizing Leadership ...............................................................................................39 Tenets of Traditional Leadership ...................................................................................39 Socially Constructed Meaning .......................................................................................40 Gender and Leadership ..................................................................................................41 Systemic Organizational Culture ...................................................................................44 Social Role Expectations ...............................................................................................44 Male-Dominated Culture ...............................................................................................45 Great-Man Theory .........................................................................................................46 Marginalized Opportunities ...........................................................................................46 Glass Ceiling Issues and Barriers ......................................................................................47 Discrimination, Prejudice, and Stereotypes ..................................................................47 Double and Multiple Jeopardy .......................................................................................48 Tokenism and Invisibility .............................................................................................48 Managerial Stress, Job Satisfaction ..............................................................................49 Work and Family Conflict ............................................................................................51 Women Opting Out of the Workforce ...........................................................................52 Bicultural Stress ............................................................................................................52 Intersectionality ..............................................................................................................53 Opposing Views ................................................................................................................57

viii Burden of Leadership .........................................................................................................59 Gaps in the Literature .........................................................................................................62 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................64 Summary ...........................................................................................................................65 CHAPTER 3: METHOD ...................................................................................................68 Research Method ...............................................................................................................69 Appropriateness of Design .................................................................................................70 Research Question .............................................................................................................72 Population ..........................................................................................................................73 Informed Consent...............................................................................................................75 Sampling Frame .................................................................................................................76 Confidentiality ...................................................................................................................78 Geographic Location ..........................................................................................................79 Data Collection ..................................................................................................................79 Instrumentation ..................................................................................................................81 Internal and External Validity ............................................................................................82 Internal Validity .............................................................................................................82 External Validity ............................................................................................................83 Data Analysis .....................................................................................................................84 Summary ...........................................................................................................................85 CHAPTER 4: PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS OF DATA ......................................87 Research Question .............................................................................................................87 Pilot Process .......................................................................................................................88

ix Final Interview Questions ..............................................................................................89 Data Collection Procedures ................................................................................................90 Data Analysis .....................................................................................................................92 Demographic Findings .......................................................................................................94 Characteristics of Study Participants ...............................................................................101 Participants’ Responses to the Interview Questions ........................................................107 Question 1 - Career Progression in the Federal government .......................................107 Question 2 - Preparation Needed to Reach the SES ...................................................108 Question 3 - Skills and Competencies for Success as a Senior Executive ..................111 Questions 4 - Mentoring and Networking ...................................................................115 Question 5 - Glass Ceiling Factors, Issues, and Barriers .............................................116 Question 6 - Challenges and Stresses of the SES ........................................................122 Question 7 – Strategies for Enhancing Diversity in the SES .......................................123 Questions 8 and 9 - Additional Perspectives on the Glass Ceiling ..............................125 Findings and Results by Core Themes ............................................................................125 Perceptions of the Glass ceiling Phenomenon ............................................................126 Key Factors in Career Advancement ..........................................................................128 Skills and Competencies for Success as a Senior Executive ......................................129 Summary ..........................................................................................................................130 CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ...................................132 Demographic Findings ....................................................................................................133 An Aging Senior Executive Service (SES) Workforce ..............................................134 Human Capital Issues and Succession Planning ........................................................135

x Generational Divide ...................................................................................................136 Patterns in the Length of Federal Career and Time in the SES ................................137 Caucasian Females Have Made the Most Gains ........................................................138 Education is a Way Up ..............................................................................................138 Management and Budgetary Authority ......................................................................139 Dependents Under Age 18 Influences Career Decisions ...........................................140 Different Career Paths to the SES ...............................................................................141 Perceptions of the Glass Ceiling ......................................................................................144 Stereotypes and Preconceptions .................................................................................144 Lack of Developmental Opportunities .......................................................................148 Work Harder and Be Better .......................................................................................148 Mobility and Work/Family Balance Issues ................................................................149 Lack of Supportive Supervisors and Lack of a Commitment to Diversity .................151 Organizational, Structural Barriers and Male-Dominated Environments ..................152 Outlier- Perceptions That the Glass Ceiling is Cracking ............................................155 Key Factors in Career Advancement ...............................................................................158 Mentoring and Networking .........................................................................................158 Exposure and Visibility ..............................................................................................161 Developmental Training Opportunities .....................................................................161 Education ...................................................................................................................162 Work Hard, Be Prepared, and Perform ......................................................................162 Support of Supervisors and a Commitment to Diversity ............................................163 Skills and Competencies for Success as a Senior Executive ...........................................163

xi Communication Skills .................................................................................................164 Leadership and People Skills ......................................................................................164 Results Orientation .....................................................................................................165 Self-Confidence ..........................................................................................................165 Political Savvy ............................................................................................................166 Implications......................................................................................................................166 Significance of the Study to Leadership ..........................................................................169 Reflection on the Study ....................................................................................................169 Re-envisioning the Glass Ceiling Phenomenon ...............................................................171 Recommendations ............................................................................................................173 Summary .........................................................................................................................179 REFERENCES ................................................................................................................182

APPENDIX A: BURDEN OF LEADERSHIP THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK ........203 APPENDIX B: REQUEST FOR PERMISSION TO USE PREMISES, NAME, AND/OR SUBJECTS ......................................................................................................................204 APPENDIX C: EMAIL SOLICITATION FOR STUDY PARTICIPANTS ..................206 APPENDIX D: INFORMED CONSENT .......................................................................207 APPENDIX E: INTRODUCTORY LETTER .................................................................209 APPENDIX F: INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ....................................................................210 APPENDIX G: INTERVIEW QUESTIONS USED IN PILOT STUDY .......................211 APPENDIX H: DEMOGRAPHIC DATA TO BE COLLECTED .................................213 APPENDIX I: FINAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS USED IN ACTUAL STUDY .......214

xii APPENDIX J: PARTICIPANTS’ LENGTH OF FEDERAL SERVICE AND TIME IN THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE (SES) ...............................................................215 APPENDIX K: SUMMARY CHARACTERISTICS OF STUDY PARTICIPANTS ....216 APPENDIX L: GLASS CEILING ISSUES AND BARRIERS ......................................217 APPENDIX M: STRATEGIES FOR ENHANCING DIVERSITY IN THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE (SES) WORKFORCE .............................................................218

xiii LIST OF TABLES Table 1 Federal and Civilian Workforce Statistics as of 2007 ............................................3 Table 2 Comparative Data on Senior Executive Service (SES) Workforce .........................7 Table 3 Summary of Literature Review .............................................................................29 Table 4 Glass Ceiling Research Timeline ..........................................................................33 Table 5 Race, Gender, and Ethnicity of Study Participants ..............................................95 Table 6 Age Ranges of Study Participants .........................................................................96 Table 7 Participants’ Education Level ...........................................................................100 Table 8 Participants in a Candidate Development Program or Similar Program ......... 109 Table 9 Career Paths to the Senior Executive Service ....................................................110 Table 10 Key Career Advancement Factors ....................................................................112 Table 11 Skills and Competencies for Success as a Senior Executive .............................113 Table 12 Commonalities in the Outlier Group ................................................................122

xiv LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Glass Ceiling Taxonomy ....................................................................................16 Figure 2. Demographics of Senior Executive Service 2007 workforce ...........................37 Figure 3. Developmental Leadership Model ..................................................................156

1 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION The 21st century has been punctuated by unprecedented change, revolution, and innovation, yet a glass ceiling hampered women and minorities (U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO], 2008b). The glass ceiling is a metaphor that represents barriers and issues that women and minorities face as they reach for higher echelons of leadership (Morrison & Von Glinow, 1990; U.S. Department of Labor [DOL], 1991, 1992). Research on the glass ceiling spans more than 25 years since the term was coined in the 1980s, but few researchers have broached the topic holistically through an intersectional lens of race, gender, and ethnicity (Browne & Misra, 2003; Henry-Brown & Campbell-Lewis, 2005). The evolving demographics of a rapidly changing workforce and attendant leadership challenges create an imperative to explore the perspectives of diverse populations of women and men. The current study was designed to re-envision the glass ceiling phenomenon based on the experiences and perceptions of women and minority senior executive leaders in the Federal government’s Senior Executive Service (SES) leadership corps. The SES represents the highest leadership level in Federal government agencies (U.S. Office of Personnel Management [OPM], 2003). In Chapter 1, the framework for the study includes background information, the nature of the research study, problem and purpose statements, the significance of the study, and a theoretical framework. Background Extant researchers indicated that women encounter a glass ceiling in the workplace which makes it difficult for them to advance to meaningful supervisory and

2 management positions (Mitra, 2003a). A preponderance of research on the glass ceiling phenomenon presented views of women in general, which typically meant the views of Caucasian women (Davies-Metzley, 1998). Few studies explored how the glass ceiling phenomenon influences minority men (Oswell, 2005). Difficulties exist in ascribing generalizations to diverse minority and ethnic groups. For example, Naff (1994) conducted a study on equal employment opportunities in the Federal government using an aggregate minority-group category comprising men and women from various minority groups. Similar practices occurred in other studies because of the unavailability of data on specific minority populations (Cox & Nkomo, 1990). More research involving minority groups could reduce the tendency for generalizations and speculations about minorities’ perceptions and create new venues for exploring intersectional theories to illuminate research data (Cox & Nkomo, 1990; Purdie-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008). Research that results in aggregated data on minority groups could fail to account for unique perspectives and cloud findings that might be significant to minority populations. Chrobot-Mason (2004) posited, “Researchers have failed to recognize and examine the diversity that lies within groups as well as between groups” (p. 6). The paucity of research on minority men and minority women supports a need for the current research study. For the purpose of the current study, diverse population groups were considered individually during the data collection phase of the current study but were collectively referred to as minorities in the narrative. The specific sample in the current study included Caucasian women, African-American men and women, Hispanic men and

3 women, Asian/Pacific Islander men and women, and American Indian/Alaskan Native men and women. Research data are more readily available because minorities and women have steadily increased employment in the Federal government over the years (Dolan, 2004; GAO, 2008b; Lewis, 2006). Data on the federal and civilian workforce are important to understanding the context of the current study. Table 1 presents a summary of the diversity in the federal and civilian labor force. The problem is that, although the federal workforce is diverse at some levels, that diversity is not present at all levels of the organization, particularly at the senior executive level. Table 1 Federal and Civilian Workforce Statistics as of 2007 ______________________________________________________________ Race/Ethnicity % in Federal Workforce % in Civilian Workforce Black 7.9% 10% Hispanic 7.9% 13.2% Asian 5.4% 4.3% American Indian 1.9% .7% Women 44.2% 45.6% ________________________________________________________________ Note. Adapted from Human Capital: Diversity in the Federal Senior Executive Service by the U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO], 2008a, Washington, D.C. Permission from GAO is not required to use this data in reports or presentations.

The current study included various perspectives of women and minority leaders in the Federal government’s SES leadership corps. The SES offers a research frame where women and minorities are similarly situated in leadership roles comparable to Caucasian

4 males for valid comparisons (GAO, 2008b; OPM, 2007a). Secondary data from governmental reports help inform the current research study (FGCC, 1995, U.S. Merit System Protection Board [MSPB], 1996). The landmark Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 established the legal framework for equal employment opportunity in the workplace and prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, age, religion, and national origin (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC], 2006a, 2006b). The legislation was enacted in the 1960s when the challenges facing women and minorities in the workforce were more straightforward. Rose Kemp, who was in the workforce in the 1960s, commented that the era was a time when open discrimination existed in the workplace and in society as a whole, which made barriers facing women and minorities easier to recognize and confront (personal communication, June 1, 2005). Although the legal framework for equal employment is still intact, equality in the workplace for women and minorities has not been achieved (Catalyst, 2004; GAO, 2008a; Lewis, 2006). Some issues are hard to legislate, just as some phenomena, like the glass ceiling, exist just below the surface and remain subtly invisible. Extant research indicates that a subtle glass ceiling could exist in the Federal government’s senior executive leadership corps (GAO, 2008b). The glass ceiling is an invisible phenomenon that has been the subject of research ever since the term was discussed in a Wall Street Journal article on executive women (Hymowitz & Schellhardt, 1986). Hymowitz and Schellhardt posited that the biggest obstacle women faced was men at the top who felt uncomfortable with women working

5 beside them. Women often were thought to lack the right credentials and the appropriate drive and commitment to make it to the boardroom. Federal Glass Ceiling Commission The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission (FGCC, 1995) explored barriers in corporate management that impede the advancement of women and minorities. Recognizing the possible influence of race, gender, and ethnicity, the FGCC conducted an environmental scan. The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission discussed barriers inherent in the glass ceiling phenomenon. Impediments were described as a “brick or concrete wall” for African Americans, “more than glass” for Native Americans, “impenetrable glass” for Asian and Pacific Islanders, and a “two-way mirror” for Hispanics (FGCC, p. 57). The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission highlighted barriers that were identified through focus-group interviews with various minority groups. The focus group for African Americans identified barriers such as stereotypes and the double burden of racism and sexism. Extant research documented other barriers, which included lack of organizational support, lack of mentors, lack of equal access to career-building assignments, lack of acceptance, and presumed incompetence (Livers & Caver, 2003). Hispanics, American Indians, and Asian and Pacific Islanders reported similar barriers in varying degrees. Hispanics reported feelings of isolation and stereotypes about immigrant status as if the group “recently arrived in the United States” (FGCC, 1995, p. 123). Asian and Pacific Islanders were stereotyped as passive and unassertive, yet intelligent, hard- working, highly-educated, and a type of “model minority” whom others should emulate

6 (p. 104). American Indians reported misconceptions and stereotypes related to being uneducated, deficient in appearance, lacking in managerial aptitude, and lacking assertiveness. Even after the FGCC disbanded, research on the glass ceiling continued to document the persistent nature of the phenomenon (Alkadry & Tower, 2006; Naff, 1994; Reid, Miller, & Kerr, 2004). A preponderance of the research on the glass ceiling phenomenon focuses on women in corporate America (Catalyst, 2000), but similar issues exist in the Federal government (GAO, 2001, 2008b). The paucity of recent research on the glass ceiling in the Federal government hampers efforts to gauge the progress of women and minorities (MSPB, 1996; Naff, 1994). The few studies that do exist (Dolan, 2004; Lewis, 2006; Taylor, 2004; Wilkerson, 2008; Williams, 2005) supported the need for additional research to understand unique experiences and perceptions of minority women and men. Federal Government Senior Executive Service The Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) was passed by Congress in 1978 to improve the overall management of the Federal government (OPM, 2005). A foundational component of the legislation was the establishment of an SES leadership corps. Diversity in the SES leadership corps has been the focus of extant research studies (GAO, 2008b; Henry-Brown & Campbell-Lewis, 2005; Naff, 1994; OPM, 2008; Taylor, 2004; Wilkerson, 2008). Data in Table 2 illustrated an underrepresentation of minorities in the SES as of September 2007. African-American men held 5% of SES positions, while representing 6.9% of the Federal workforce. African-American women occupied 3.5% of SES

7 positions, while representing 10.7% of the federal workforce. For the next largest minority group, Hispanics, data showed Hispanic men holding 2.7% of SES positions, while representing 4.4% of the federal workforce. Hispanic women occupied .9% of SES positions, while representing 3.1% of the federal workforce. Table 2 Comparative Data on Senior Executive Service (SES) Workforce

October 2000

September 2006

September 2007

Federal Workforce

SES Profile SES % SES % SES % 2007 % African-American men 5.5 5.1 5.0 6.9 African-American women 2.9 3.5 3.5 10.7 American Indian/Alaska Native men 0.9 0.9 0.9 0.9 American Indian/Alaska Native women 0.3 0.4 0.4 1 Asian/Pacific Islander men 1.1 1.4 1.5 2.9 Asian/Pacific Islander women 0.5 0.9 0.9 2.3 Hispanic men 1.8 2.6 2.7 4.4 Hispanic women 0.7 1.0 0.9 3.1 Caucasian men 67.1 61.4 60.7 41.1 Caucasian women 19.1 22.6 23.3 26.7 Note. Adapted from Human Capital: Diversity in the Federal Senior Executive Service Levels of the U.S. Postal Service and Processes for Selecting New Executives by the U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO], 2008b, Washington D.C. Permission from GAO is not required to use this data in reports or presentations.

8 Statistics tell only part of the story, which is why a qualitative method and a phenomenological design was used in the current study to explore experiences and perceptions of women and minority federal senior executives regarding the glass ceiling and the SES leadership corps. A subtle glass ceiling could exist with women and minorities facing barriers, real or perceived, that hamper their attainment of SES leadership positions. Problem Statement The Senior Executive Service (SES) leadership corps represents the highest level of leadership in Federal government agencies, and diversity in the SES is an important issue (GAO, 2008b). The U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO] (2008b) detailed efforts by Federal government agencies to diversify the SES leadership corps, but modest gains have been achieved, and progress is slow. Projected attrition and retirements in the SES leadership corps could create a dearth of senior executive leaders in the Federal government. A leadership void created by the exodus of senior executive leaders could have serious implications for government management, succession planning, workforce diversity, and leadership development (GAO, 2008a; OPM, 2008). The problem is that the Senior Executive Service (SES) leadership corps has an underrepresentation of women and minorities. That problem is exacerbated by the changing demographics and overall growing diversity of the federal workforce (Dolan, 2004; Gilmore, 2008; Naff, 2001). In September 2007, Caucasian males held 60.7% of SES positions and Caucasian women occupied 23.3% (GAO, 2008b). Minorities were underrepresented in the SES leadership corps and collectively constituted 16% of the SES

9 positions, while representing 32.2% of the federal workforce in September 2007 (see Table 2). Leadership diversity is critical to the Federal government as the government faces complex challenges in the 21st century (GAO, 2008a). Although a possible glass ceiling exists in the Federal government’s senior executive leadership corps (GAO, 2008b; Taylor, 2004), little information is available regarding the experiences of women and minority senior executive leaders. A representative SES leadership corps ensures that the face of leadership in the Federal government reflects the face of America (Dolan, 2004; Naff, 2001). A diverse Federal government is important because governmental decisions are viewed as more responsive to the public when the workforce looks like America (Dolan; Naff). The current research study included a qualitative method and phenomenological design characterized by a semi-structured interview complemented with the collection of demographic data. The semi-structured interview was designed to explore career experiences and perceptions of 20 to 26 women and minority senior executive leaders in the Federal government’s SES. The research method and design were appropriate to explore lived experiences and perceptions of senior executive leaders regarding the glass ceiling phenomenon and career advancement to the SES level. Information developed in the current study could be helpful in developing diverse leaders in the Federal government (Private Sector Council, 2006). The qualitative, phenomenological design was appropriate to explore and describe emergent themes and patterns regarding experiences and perceptions of the glass ceiling phenomenon and attainment of Senior Executive Service (SES) leadership positions.

10 The general population under study consisted of current and retired women and minority senior executive leaders in career SES leadership positions in the Federal government. Retired SES members were included in the study because of the limited number of minorities who have attained SES status. The current study was designed to facilitate the exploration of perceptions and experiences of women and minority senior executive leaders in order to shed light on glass ceiling issues and challenges encountered while advancing to SES leadership positions in the Federal government. Purpose Statement The purpose of the current qualitative, phenomenological study was to explore and describe perspectives on the glass ceiling phenomenon based on the experiences and perceptions of 20 to 26 women and minority Senior Executive Service (SES) leaders in Federal government agencies located in the Midwest and Washington, D.C. areas. At this stage of the research, the glass ceiling, as the central phenomenon studied, is defined as “artificial barriers to the advancement of women and minorities” to executive leadership positions (DOL, 1991, p. 1). Women and minorities were selected as the specific population group in the current study because women and minorities are similarly situated in the context of the Federal government work environment as members of the SES leadership corps. Participants in the current study were referred to as coresearcher participants (Moustakas, 1994; van Manen, 1990) to describe relationships in their involvement and agreement to participate in the research study. NVIVO 8.0 software was used to analyze the interview data generated by the coresearcher participants. The research study consisted of a phenomenological, semi-structured interview complemented with

11 descriptive demographic data to explore the lived experiences and perceptions of women and minority senior executives regarding the glass ceiling phenomenon in the Federal government’s SES leadership corps. Variables of race, gender, ethnicity, education, and length of federal service were addressed in demographic questions that were asked of participants during the data collection process. The qualitative method and phenomenological design were appropriate for the current study and in the interest of exploring lived experiences. The goal of the study was to gain a deeper understanding of the glass ceiling phenomenon and the career experiences of women and minority senior executive leaders in the Federal government. Obtaining perspectives based on race, gender, and ethnicity could be important to gaining a full understanding of this complex phenomenon (Browne & Misra, 2003; Henry-Brown & Campbell-Lewis, 2005). An advantage in the current study was that varied perspectives produced new knowledge to re-envision the glass ceiling phenomenon and help advance more women and minorities into senior executive leadership positions. A phenomenological design enables lived experiences to be explored, which could lead to the development of strategies to shatter the glass ceiling. The current study involved a stratified purposeful sample of 20 to 26 women and minority SES leaders with an audio taped and transcribed semi-structured interview. Significance of the Study The study’s significance is that it increased awareness of the experiences of women and minorities in senior executive leadership positions in the Federal government.

12 Research exploring the experiences of women and minorities could fill gaps in knowledge and begin to address the needs of 21st century organizations concerned with leadership and diversity. The current research study enhanced understanding of the experiences of women and minorities and provided insights into issues, trends, and barriers that impede advancement. Carli and Eagly (2001) discussed the importance of understanding the conditions that influence women and men to emerge as leaders. Although the glass ceiling phenomenon has been the subject of research studies since the 1980s, women were still not equally represented in executive leadership and management roles (Reid et al., 2004). The glass ceiling phenomenon is a critical issue for research, particularly in view of women and minorities’ increased participation in the labor force (U.S. Department of Labor’s [DOL] Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], 2005). Projections are that women will constitute almost 50% of the workforce by 2010 (DOL Women’s Bureau, 2006). Significance of the Study to Leadership An important leadership issue for women and minorities was the perceived lack of opportunity for executive leadership positions (Oswell, 2005; Taylor, 2004). Indeed, diversity in leadership is a growing concern for the Federal government and a pressing human capital issue (GAO, 2008a; Gilmore, 2008). The current research study contributes to the field of leadership by providing an exploration of experiences and perceptions regarding leadership attainment of women and minorities in the Federal government. The current study was important because of a projected shortage of SES leaders in the Federal government due to projected retirements. The number of SES leaders who

13 plan to retire or leave government service was estimated to approach 57% by 2010 (GAO, 2003a). “If a significant number of SES members were to retire, it could result in a loss of leadership continuity, institutional knowledge, and expertise among the SES corps” (GAO, 2008a, p. 12). The projected exodus (GAO, 2008a, 2008b) of SES leaders could create opportunities for women and minorities to close the diversity gap in the SES leadership corps. “Racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the SES is an important component for the effective operation of the government” (GAO, 2008a, p. 12). Nature of the Study In the current qualitative, phenomenological study, perspectives and perceptions of the glass ceiling phenomenon were explored and described based on the lived experiences of women and minority leaders in the Federal government’s Senior Executive Service (SES) leadership corps. A qualitative method allowed the use of a semi-structured interview that was conducted via telephone, and explored varied perspectives of coresearcher participants in order to discover emergent themes regarding the phenomenon under investigation. A qualitative study was appropriate to generate data that provided significant insight into a given situation or phenomenon such as the glass ceiling (Creswell, 2003; Leedy & Ormrod, 2001; Moustakas, 1994). The research method and design of the current study was appropriate to accomplish the goals for the study of gaining a deeper understanding of the glass ceiling phenomenon using social constructs of race, gender, and ethnicity. Exploring the lived experiences of women and minority senior executive leaders could generate new knowledge about the phenomenon (Creswell, 2009; Lichtman, 2006; van Manen, 1990).

14 Taylor (2004) and Lewis (2006) used qualitative methods to explore the lived experiences of women in the SES and examined barriers to career progression. Qualitative research was appropriate to produce detailed information about a smaller sample such as the 20 to 26 coresearcher participants who participated in the current study (Creswell, 2003). A caveat was that using a smaller sample increased understanding of participants’ experiences but reduced generalizability (Creswell). A qualitative method and phenomenological design was an appropriate approach because such a method allowed a researcher to “(a) gain insight about the nature of a particular phenomenon, (b) develop new concepts or theoretical perspectives about the phenomenon, and (c) discover the problems that exists within the phenomenon” (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001, p. 148). Open-ended questioning was used to elicit the richness of comprehensive experiences of coresearcher participants regarding the glass ceiling phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994). The interview was guided by the following research questions, which were based on the literature review and extant research. Research Questions Extant research indicating that the glass ceiling phenomenon still exists and could be experienced differently by Caucasian women and minority men and women was foundational to the current study (Browne & Misra, 2003; Combs, 2003; Hite, 2005; GAO, 2003a; Naff, 2001). Men were not typically included in research on glass ceiling issues; however, the current study was designed to obtain the perspectives of minority men and Caucasian and minority women. A final list of specific interview questions is included in Appendix I.

Full document contains 234 pages
Abstract: This qualitative, phenomenological study re-envisions the glass ceiling based on constructs of race, gender, and ethnicity. The study explores the experiences and perceptions of 26 women and minority Federal government senior executives regarding the glass ceiling phenomenon in the government's Senior Executive Service (SES) leadership corps. The study included a modified van Kaam method of analysis by Moustakas (1994) to explore and describe the glass ceiling, and implications for career advancement. A diverse group of participants representing African-American, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, and Hispanic males and females participated in semi-structured audio-taped and transcribed telephone interviews. A preponderance of extant studies on the glass ceiling omits the experiences of minority men and women or considers minority groups as an afterthought. Caucasian women were also included in the study group to obtain a holistic view of how the glass ceiling is perceived in the Federal government. A burden-of-leadership theoretical framework developed by the researcher conceptualized multifaceted complexities in the glass ceiling phenomenon. The research is important given current workforce diversity and future workforce trends, which makes it imperative that the face of leadership in the Federal government reflect the face of America (Naff, 2001).