Date of Award

Winter 1-6-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Richard Lakes

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Carter

Third Advisor

Dr. Jami Berry

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Robert Michael


Gender continues to be an impediment for women in military leadership positions, particularly in Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) training programs in higher education. This study examines the social construction of gender by female cadets in a predominately male military environment. According to Herbert (1998), female soldiers strike a balance between being feminine enough to be considered a woman yet masculine enough to be considered a military leader—sustaining a view that finds these women are viewed as less than competent officers. Achieving equilibrium between femininity and masculinity is a common thread in much of the literature on female military leadership. This dissertation is informed by gender schema theory, role congruity theory, and social comparison theory. The research is narrative in design and uses a structured questionnaire for two to three one-hour interviews with six junior and/or senior female cadets matriculated in the ROTC program as well as four one hour focus group interviews and three one hour military staff interviews. The study determined female cadets manage their gender in a predominately male military environment at a Senior Military College by appearing more masculine than feminine when in uniform. Female cadets often felt they worked twice as hard as their male colleagues, yet gender consistently underscored their accomplishments and leadership. Female cadets who embraced the patriarchy of the military values appeared to be the most successful leaders in this study. The findings will benefit those who study gender and leadership in higher education.