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The lived experiences of female educational leadership doctoral students

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Purpose ‐ There is a meager body of research addressing the role educational leadership preparation programs in colleges and universities play in preparing women leaders. Also educational leadership preparation research has yet to explore ways in which mentorship provides additional capital for female graduate students. This study seeks to understand the challenges facing, and the opportunities available to, female graduate students in educational leadership departments. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study used qualitative methods to explore the constructs of educational leadership preparation and mentorship of female graduate students. Qualitative methods, specifically a questionnaire and a collaborative focus group, were informed by the work of feminist theory and were used to explore participants' experiences and perceptions with the larger purpose of understanding the implications of their experiences for the development of strategies and programs intended to support female graduate students. Findings ‐ The following themes emerged from the participants' stories: constraints within the organizational culture, personal and familial sacrifice, struggles with identity, questioning self, and experiences with mentoring. Practical implications ‐ The findings have important implications for the roles university leadership preparation program structures might play in supporting female graduate students and their career success. The findings also offer recommendations for the development of mentoring programs for female graduate students. Originality/value ‐ Currently, there is an exceptional lack of research documenting the lived experiences of female doctoral students, particularly research that can be used to inform policy and program development. To that end, the qualitative study described in this paper helps in understanding the challenges facing, and the opportunities available to, female graduate students in educational leadership departments as well as in understanding the implications of such experiences for the development of strategies and programs intended to support female graduate students.
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Keywords: Gender; Graduates; Higher education; Mentoring; Women

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 28, 2010

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