Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Pamela Eddy


This qualitative phenomenological case study examined the intersection of organizational structures and gender, as well as perceptions of climate, and their collective impact on professional advancement opportunities of women working in lower-level positions in higher education, namely classified and professional staff (Acker, 1990; Allan, 2011; Kanter, 1977). Kanter's (1977) theory of the role of structure in organizations posits that position in the organizational hierarchy and work role influence the amount of access an employee has to information, resources, promotional opportunities, and support. In gendered organizations (Acker, 1990, 2006), women face barriers in advancement. While Kanter (1977) argued that structure not gender creates an imbalance of power within organizations, this study found that both structure and gender bias (Acker, 1990) act as intersecting promotional barriers for women, in particular for women located at the bottom of the hierarchy. Confidential interviews were conducted at two case sites with 10 female professional staff and 10 female classified staff. Findings showed that women in lower-level positions perceive a hostile work climate which perpetuates an us vs. them atmosphere; supervisors hold much power over the perceptions of climate and seem to be the key to access; the sticky-floor is alive and well for women in higher education; and the intersection of gender and position significantly impact women's ability to advance professionally. Methods of improving policy and practice are discussed to include investing in people, shifting values, breaking down the caste system, supervisory training, communication, and career progression plans.



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