Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Joyce Felstehausen


Expanded career opportunities for women have emerged following the women's movement and equal opportunity legislation. Today, statistics show more women, single, married and female heads of the household, are in the work force than ever before. Yet, women are not entering those jobs in which greater earning and advancement potential exist and professional women have not advanced significantly.

The literature discussing issues related to women and work indicates that leadership responsibility may play a role in raising both the career aspirations and salience of women. If this is so then providing appropriate leadership experience emerges as a potential tool for helping counselors and teachers better prepare women to realistically consider the wider variety of options available to them.

This study was designed to investigate the relationship between leadership responsibility and the career aspirations and salience of college women. A statistical approach was used to determine if there was a relationship between the independent variable, leadership experience, and the dependent variables, career commitment, perceptions of support for women working, independence, career aspirations, and self-esteem. Since parental and teacher support have been shown, in part, to influence both career aspirations and salience, they were treated as intervening variables.

One hundred twelve female students enrolled in senior seminar at Eastern Illinois University during fall semester, 1985, participated in the study. This was a 10% sample of all senior females enrolled in the university. Senior seminars were selected using a random number table. This procedure was used to insure a representative sample. The only bias apparent was a timing bias as all seniors do not take senior seminar during the same semester.

The study questionnaire is a composite of several scales that have been validated in other research. Seven scales are incorporated in the questionnaire. These scales measure self-esteem, career commitment, career aspirations, parental support, teacher support, support for women working, and independence. A question defining level of leadership responsibility was drafted for use in the study.

The data were gathered over a three-week period. Senior seminar instructors were extremely cooperative. Students were allowed to complete the questionnaires in class so that the response was 100% for those students who had attended class. It took approximately 30 minutes for a student to complete the questionnaire.

The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences was used to analyze the data. Pearson correlations were run to study the relationship between the independent variable and the five dependent variables. Three partial correlations were run to control for the possible effect of the intervening variables of parental support, teacher support and parental and teacher support, together. The criterion for significance was established at the .05 level.

Study findings indicate there is a very strong relationship between leadership responsibility and independence (p=.004). Although it is not significant at the .05 level, there is a trend toward a relationship between leadership responsibility and support for women working (p=.07).