Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Elsie P. Jackson

Second Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Third Advisor

Naomi Ludman



According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) survey, 60% of employed women cited stress as their most serious problem at work. Working outside the home and balancing a family create conflicts between work and family obligations which become a likely cause of stress for women. While stress may be a problem among working women in general, it seems highly probable that women who function in leadership positions may experience additional stressors. Consequently, this study focused on investigating the stressors of women who currently function in leadership positions and the coping strategies they use to combat stress within corporate America, education, and government agencies.


This study used a mixed-method approach. A survey questionnaire was administered to 67 women at least 20 years old who functioned in leadership positions within corporate America, education, and government. The questionnaire was the Occupational Stress Inventory Revised (OSI-R), which has structured questions on a Likert-type rating scale. The OSI-R contains three categories: (a) Occupational Roles Questionnaires, (b) Personal Strain, and (c) Personal Resources. Data were analyzed through the use of descriptive and inferential statistics such as Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA), and Univariate F Tests. All decisions on the statistical significance of findings used a criterion alpha level of .05. The qualitative portion was fulfilled by conducting a face-to-face semi-structured interview with 6 women leaders—2 each were from education, corporate America, and government.


This research revealed that women functioning in leadership positions within corporate America, education, and governmental agencies experienced maladaptive levels of vocational personal strain and occupational stressors, which were role ambiguity, role boundary, and role overload. A statistically significant relationship was found between stress and length of service. As the length of time with their respective organizations increased, less occupational stress and personal strain were experienced by the women.

Although prayer and spirituality were not identified as a coping resource on the OSI-R, it appeared throughout the interviews as a means of coping.


Women who hold leadership positions within corporate America, education, and governmental agencies experienced occupational stress in role ambiguity, role boundary, role overload, and vocational strain. Leaders in these areas must support women on issues that generate stress in the work environment.

Subject Area

Leadership in women; Women--Job stress; Stress in women


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