Date of Award

Spring 6-9-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (PhD)


Industrial/Organizational Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Robert B. McKenna, Ph.D.

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dana Kendall, Ph.D.

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Reverend Beth Armstrong, Ph.D.


Women leaders, developing conviction, experiences, leadership development, learning


The past 20 years has seen a proliferation of studies identifying the barriers women often face in leadership. Two potent obstacles women face are gender bias and stereotype threat, which manifest in both management selection and performance ratings. One option some women use to combat negative stereotypes is to adapt themselves to their environments, an approach that may lead to a decrease in self-regulation, goal clarity, and authenticity. Demonstrating conviction is a powerful strategy used by leaders to maintain a consistent sense of direction and connection to what is most important to them, even under the most pressing situations. This strategy may be especially useful for enabling women leaders to hold on to what is most important to them amid the pressures they face to adapt to stereotypes. The goal of this study was to determine whether certain career and life experiences affect women’s ability to demonstrate conviction. After accounting for missing data and outliers, the sample consisted of 563 male and female leaders enrolled in an online leadership development tool. The age of the participants ranged from 18 to 92, with 323 participants identifying as female and 240 as male. Hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the primary hypotheses and exploratory research questions. All analyses resulted in statistically significant results. Specifically, Calling and People Experiences positively predict conviction development. Calling Experiences resulted in the strongest unique predictor of conviction development in women. Exploratory analyses identified Leadership and People Experiences as being critical for male leaders’ conviction development. These result reveal that novel and unique experiences have a direct impact on women leaders’ self-knowledge and create opportunities for learning.

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