School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


James A. Fyock


Women, Leadership, U.S. Army, Barriers, Enlisted, Representation


Education | Educational Leadership | Leadership Studies


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to explore retired female senior enlisted leaders’ lived experiences while assigned as first sergeant (1SG) and command sergeant major (CSM) in initial entry training (IET) to ascertain if their experiences shed light on the underrepresentation of female leaders in the basic combat training (BCT) environment. Data collection emphasized factors that led to success in the IET environment, as well as challenges and barriers they may have faced. The theoretical framework that underpinned this study included the social role theory that the expectations for men and women are based on sex differences that regulate behavior in an adult’s work and family life and the role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders that suggests women do not reach top-level positions because they are less capable than men are and women are judged more harshly when they are in leadership roles. Data included a reflective journal, individual interviews, and a focus group. Having to prove oneself, reaction to female leadership, family obligations, and fighting stereotypes emerged as barriers and challenges. Attributes needed for success in the IET BCT environment included Army Values, toughness and tenacity, and good judgment. Coding of positions and male perception of female leaders emerged as challenges and barriers that prevent females from attaining 1SG and CSM in the BCT environment. The findings reflect credence to support the social role theory and role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. The results extend research on the representation of women in senior leadership positions because it includes female leaders in a nontraditional educational environment in the largest branch of the U.S. military.