My doctoral dissertation was published by ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2013. 3572902. For additional information, click here. Please tell me your thoughts.


The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study was to share achievements and experienced barriers of 12 women who advanced in the federal leadership hierarchy. The study examined motivational factors of women serving in leadership roles within the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and succeeded in obtaining management or senior executive leadership positions within the federal government. Women leaders within the federal government working for OPM were interviewed to provide insight on individual lived experiences and barriers. The guiding research question of the study was, “What is the essence of the lived experiences of women who broke through barriers to become federal managers and senior executive leaders?” The emergent themes from the interviews are (a) diverse experiences and adaptability, (b) leadership and professional development, (c) mentoring and network interactions, and (d) advancement opportunities for women. This study was intended to contribute to current and future generations by providing success stories of women who have beat the odds and obstacles. The study may also provide additional information on the gender gap to OPM. Sharing the experiences of the long-concealed and frequently debarred cluster of women who broke through the glass ceiling and shattered the glass wall may assist women who aspire to become leaders within the federal government. The study exposed the lived experiences of participants, the roles senior executive service and gender play a significant part in career advancement to leadership, barriers are extensive among all participants, and motivational factors are imperative for advancement within the government sector.


The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study was to share achievements and experienced barriers of women who have advanced in the federal leadership hierarchy located in the District of Columbia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. This study examined motivational factors of women who succeeded in obtaining management and senior executive leadership positions. The population for this study was women currently serving in GS-13 through GS-15 management positions and senior executives working for OPM in various occupation functions, which are referred to as “series” within federal employment. The sample consisted of 12 women working for OPM who meet the requirements or until saturation. Phenomenology, German philosopher Husserl’s approach to understanding the human experience (Pringle, Hendry, & McLafferty, 2011, p. 8), was used for this study. The phenomenological approach was selected because of the usefulness in bringing lived experiences into the light by reaching beyond factual explanations (Pringle, Hendry, & McLafferty, 2011).