The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Higher Education Administration: M.S.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Christine Imbra

Second Advisor

Kate Steffens

Third Advisor

Frances Kayona

Keywords and Subject Headings

Gender, Career Aspirations, administrators, Minnesota State, leadership


A recent national survey found women hold only 23% of higher education institution presidencies (American Council on Education, 2007). However, women now earn 58% of all bachelor’s degrees and 4% of all doctorates (U.S. Department of Education, 2005). These findings suggest something may be interfering with the pool of capable women moving through the pipeline to attain higher education administrative positions. Gender differences in career aspirations have been suggested as one potential reason for this disparity.

This study examined the career aspirations of women and men holding administrative positions of dean or higher (excluding presidents) within the institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. An online questionnaire was sent to 389 administrators, and 139 participated.

Analysis of the data found that female and male administrators did not differ in their desire to advance to higher administrative positions, perceptions of how much they would need to change their leadership style in order to advance, level of career planning, or number of current mentors. Women were found to participate more in leadership development programs than men. Women also felt more geographically constrained in their careers than men. Overall these findings suggest that, with the exception of geographic mobility, factors other than career aspirations may be the cause of barriers to female advancement to high level administrative positions. Variables such as institutional and societal barriers may need to be more closely investigated and more vigorously challenged if this gender disparity is to improve.



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