Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Franklin A. Tuitt, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Lynn Gangone

Third Advisor

Tamra P. d'Estree


Administration, Epistemology, Gender, Higher education, Leaders


In an American postsecondary context, conflict is inherent (Gianneschi & Yanagiura, 2006; Valian, 1999). Successful navigation of conflict in the academy is vital for those who aspire to leadership positions (Nadler & Nadler, 1987; Walters, Stuhlmacher, & Meyer, 1998). Presently, however, women face significant barriers to achieving success in higher education administration, including gender expectations for conflict resolution behavior (Bartunek, 1992; Bowles, Babcock, & McGinn, 2005; Gayle, Preiss, & Allen, 2002).

While a considerable body of literature exists for understanding gender negotiation, it remains rooted in a masculine paradigm (Kolb & Putnam, 2006; Shuter & Turner, 1997), and, as such, established theories lack a feminist epistemological perspective. Consequently, my primary research question is, How do women leaders experience and perceive conflict in the higher education work environment? I conduct a qualitative study that examines workplace conflict experiences of 15 women leaders from diverse personal and professional backgrounds.

Hartsock's (1983) three-tiered gender-sensitive analysis of power, updated to include multicultural perspectives, serves as my theoretical framework. It is a lens through which I evaluate theories, finding multicultural organizational, higher education conflict, and gender negotiation theories most applicable to this study. The framework also creates the foundation upon which I build my study. Specifically, I determine that a feminist research method is most relevant to this investigation.

To analyze data obtained through in depth interviews, I employ a highly structured form of grounded theory called dimensional analysis. Based on my findings, I co-construct with study participants a Feminist Conflict Process Theory and Flowchart in which initially the nature of the relationship, and subsequently the level of risk to the relationship, institution, or self, is evaluated.

This study supports that which is observed in the conflict resolution practitioner literature, but is unique in its observation of factors that influence decisions within a dynamic conflict resolution process. My findings are significant to women who aspire to serve in leadership positions in higher education, as well as to the academy as a whole, for it expands our knowledge of women's ontological and epistemological perspectives on resolving conflict in postsecondary education.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Maureen C. Silva


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

356 p.

SilvaConflictProcessFlowChartFinal.pdf (509 kB)
Conflict Process Flow Chart


Higher Education, Epistemology, Gender Studies