The Relationship Between a Women's Leadership Development Program and Participant Self-Confidence

Jennings, Janelle, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Rowan-Kenyon, Heather, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Booker, Keonya, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Burbach, Harold, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Madson, Johan, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

According to Lundeberg, Fox, and Punccohar (1994), the reason that there are fewer women in certain professions is because of a lack of self-confidence. In a review of the literature, they found studies reporting a lack of self-confidence in sixth-grade girls, high school students, and women in undergraduate and graduate school. In her work on high school valedictorians and their transition to college, Arnold (1995) talked to both men and women. These students were high achievers who excelled in high school and who were continuing their education at colleges and universities in Illinois. Over 25 percent of the women valedictorians in Arnold's study reported that they were of average intelligence, despite the fact that they had felt they were of above average intelligence in high school. This decrease was particularly puzzling considering the women had slightly higher grades than their male peers and had won scholarships, awards, and fellowships.

College women and self-confidence is a major topic in this study because of accumulated research in this area as well as anecdotal evidence gathered by the researcher. The struggle that women seem to be having with their perception of themselves and their abilities is concerning for those who interact with these women, including student affairs professionals. Identifying ways to increase self-confidence in women is a challenge, and is one of the motivators behind this research. The Women's Leadership Development Program (WLDP) at the University of Virginia (UV a), the site for this study, is one example of an institutional effort to provide intentional programming to strengthen participant self-confidence, risk-taking, and other leadership-related topics.

A qualitative research design using the case study method was chosen for this study. This approach was selected in order to better understand the experience of the 16 participants and to interpret that experience for an audience (Merriam, 1998; Whitt, 1991 ). Three semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants over a 10-month period to collect data; other methods used were observations of the program and document analyses. The conceptual framework used to guide the study was based on McCormick's (1999, 2001) Social Cognitive Model of Leadership and Bandura's (1993, 1977, 1997) self-efficacy theory, allowing the researcher to more fully explore the concepts of leadership, self-confidence, and self-efficacy.

There are three conclusions that can be drawn from this study. First, WLDP affected participant self-confidence by varying degrees for a majority of women in the sample. Second, first year women experienced more leadership-related change as a result of their participation than their second year peers. Third, the program is not reaching emerging leaders exclusively because of the high rate of involvement that many of the women in the sample possessed upon entering the program.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
self-perception, women, professions, development, self-confidence

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2015-09-17 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:38:05.

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