Women's leadership identity development as former student government presidents

Kristie Damell, Fordham University


Institutions of higher education are charged with academically and professionally preparing students to lead in the workforce. Specifically, little is known regarding how students develop their leadership identity throughout their undergraduate career. One significant leadership role that students hold is that of student government president. Student government has been a critical component of the landscape of higher education for centuries, yet little research has been conducted on the experiences of former presidents. Concurrently, although women earn more degrees than men in the United States, they are underrepresented in the role of student government president. This study examines the experiences of fourteen former, female student government presidents to understand how leadership identity develops. The leadership identity development theory was utilized as a framework to examine leadership development during and post-college. Through a feminist lens, gender was central to the study to uncover gender expectations and stereotypes. A qualitative, phenomenological design was used to capture the lived experiences and meanings created by the women. The women graduated from various types of institutions along the East Coast within a 15-year timespan. Derived from two semi-structured interviews, the findings indicate four themes: (a) prior involvement, (b) relationships matter, (c) navigating gender dynamics, and (d) the student government experience matters. The findings suggest that serving as student government president impacts leadership identity development during and post-college and is a valuable, meaningful experience. Interpretations are made from the findings and recommendations for future research are addressed, as well as practical implications for practice.

Subject Area

Higher education

Recommended Citation

Damell, Kristie, "Women's leadership identity development as former student government presidents" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3604855.