Reflections of undergraduate business education alumnae: Shifting perspectives on gender and work

Aimee DuVall Phelps, University of Rhode Island


Women are entering higher education at the greatest rate in history (NCES, 2012). They are succeeding and graduating with degrees relevant to leadership and business and are entering the workforce in record numbers (Catalyst, 2013; Eagly & Carli, 2007). But then women seemingly stall out (Barsh & Yee, 2011; Catalyst, 2013; Soares, Cobb, et al., 2011). The further up the ladder women climb – the fewer their numbers. Numerous literature streams document the potential causes and effects of this phenomenon. This qualitative study sought to augment the current literature that has ignored the impact of undergraduate business education on that phenomenon. ^ A narrative study provided the opportunity to document stories from women in business education, a group that has until now been rendered silent by the prevailing positivistic approaches to research privileged in the discipline and a lack of focus on this population. The study employed semi structured interviews and electronic communications to allow ten undergraduate business alumnae to share stories about their college and professional experience and their perceptions about the impact of those experiences on their aspirations and life choices. Thematic narrative analysis rendered eight emergent themes about women’s experiences before and after college. The findings suggest ambivalence and denial about gender inequality while in college. They also point to significant shifts in the perceptions of gender, the gender gap and its personal implications once women enter the work world. Additionally, women reflected on the sometimes unrealistic, minimal, and even negative impact of their college experiences on their perceptions of the importance of gender in their future careers. Participant observations and reflections point to opportunities that business undergraduate education has to better prepare women students for the realities of a corporate work world still dominated by men. Recommendations for curriculum and pedagogical revisions in undergraduate business education are included.^

Subject Area

Womens studies|Business education|Organizational behavior|Gender studies|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Aimee DuVall Phelps, "Reflections of undergraduate business education alumnae: Shifting perspectives on gender and work" (2015). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3734129.