Women Leaders Resolving Conflict in Higher Education: A Feminist Epistemological Perspective

Citation data:

Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Publication Year:
Usage 141
Downloads 128
Abstract Views 13
Repository URL:
https://digitalcommons.du.edu/etd/928; https://digitalcommons.du.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1927&context=etd
Silva, Maureen C
Digital Commons @ DU
Administration; Epistemology; Gender; Higher Education; Leaders; Educational Administration and Supervision; Higher Education Administration
thesis / dissertation description
In an American postsecondary context, conflict is inherent (Gianneschi & Yanagiura, 2006; Valian, 1999). Successful navigation of conflict in the academy is vital for those who aspire to leadership positions (Nadler & Nadler, 1987; Walters, Stuhlmacher, & Meyer, 1998). Presently, however, women face significant barriers to achieving success in higher education administration, including gender expectations for conflict resolution behavior (Bartunek, 1992; Bowles, Babcock, & McGinn, 2005; Gayle, Preiss, & Allen, 2002).While a considerable body of literature exists for understanding gender negotiation, it remains rooted in a masculine paradigm (Kolb & Putnam, 2006; Shuter & Turner, 1997), and, as such, established theories lack a feminist epistemological perspective. Consequently, my primary research question is, How do women leaders experience and perceive conflict in the higher education work environment? I conduct a qualitative study that examines workplace conflict experiences of 15 women leaders from diverse personal and professional backgrounds.Hartsock's (1983) three-tiered gender-sensitive analysis of power, updated to include multicultural perspectives, serves as my theoretical framework. It is a lens through which I evaluate theories, finding multicultural organizational, higher education conflict, and gender negotiation theories most applicable to this study. The framework also creates the foundation upon which I build my study. Specifically, I determine that a feminist research method is most relevant to this investigation.To analyze data obtained through in depth interviews, I employ a highly structured form of grounded theory called dimensional analysis. Based on my findings, I co-construct with study participants a Feminist Conflict Process Theory and Flowchart in which initially the nature of the relationship, and subsequently the level of risk to the relationship, institution, or self, is evaluated.This study supports that which is observed in the conflict resolution practitioner literature, but is unique in its observation of factors that influence decisions within a dynamic conflict resolution process. My findings are significant to women who aspire to serve in leadership positions in higher education, as well as to the academy as a whole, for it expands our knowledge of women's ontological and epistemological perspectives on resolving conflict in postsecondary education.