Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Philo Hutcheson

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Esposito

Third Advisor

Dr. Jodi Kaufmann

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Donna Breault


The purpose of this study was to describe women’s experiences and challenges encountered during the tenure process at one institution, if and how they overcame those challenges, and if the challenges are consistent with those that appear in the literature. Higher education is comprised of a majority of male faculty members and administrators, but data show that women have surpassed men in earning doctorate degrees. Nevertheless, the rate at which women achieve tenure is not equal to that of men. Most of the literature on tenure is based on institutionalized power, gender inequities, policies, criteria, and the experiences of males, while providing limited information about women and their experiences during the tenure process. Furthermore, information about tenured women provides little discussion of how women navigate the tenure process. This lack of information demonstrates that there is a gap in the literature about women’s experiences in academia, especially during the process of achieving tenure. Therefore, this study explored women’s experiences with the tenure process through the lens of institutionalized power informed by gender and feminism.

For the purpose of this study, I adopted a qualitative case study approach. The primary source of data collection was semi-structured phenomenological interviews with three women who were tenured within the last five years. This case study investigated tenure, institutionalized power, and gender at a small public university. I abstracted themes from the data by applying an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) technique to analyze and describe the results of the study. Results show that the participants felt stressed out and unsure about the criteria for tenure. Data also show that finding a mentor and beginning the process early are important. This study will add to the body of knowledge about women’s experiences with the tenure process in higher education.