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Dissertation Abstract

The Application of Q Methodology to Understanding the Experiences of Female Executives in Biotechnology Companies in Massachusetts: A Contextual Perspective

Daun Anderson
Regent University

The top management team (TMT) of an organization includes the senior executives who formulate strategic decisions and serve as a link between the organization and its environment. Given their pivotal role, it is unfortunate that most TMTs do not include women who make up 47% of the workforce in the United States. While they have moved rapidly into middle management positions, most women have encountered the glass ceiling as a barrier to attaining more senior leadership positions. In order to remain competitive, companies must recognize and promote their most talented people, both male and female. The biotechnology industry seems to provide an environment in which this is taking place. This two-phase qualitative/quantitative research study used Q methodology to uncover and describe the subjective perceptions of 25 women at the Vice President level and above in 21 biotechnology companies in Massachusetts. Q methodology offers a systematic way to present an individual's viewpoints, values, thoughts, and attitudes. It combines the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative research, and it is ideally suited to examining subjectivity. Through web-based interview questions and Q sorts, the 25 women responded to questions and rank ordered statements regarding the environments in which they worked. The resulting data were analyzed using centroid factor analysis and theoretical rotation. The results of this study revealed three distinct factors or groupings of women who shared similar views. The first group consisted of 15 women who saw their companies as places where women enjoyed upward mobility in an atmosphere of teamwork and integrity. By contrast, the second group included only 2 women, both of whom perceived political behavior and other barriers to women's career advancement. The 3 women in the third group felt that women could advance as long as they understood the role of politics in decision making and the importance of individual achievement. The author offers three suggestions for future research that focus on lower level women's perceptions of the contexts in which they work, the experiences of senior executive women in biotechnology companies outside of the United States, and women at senior levels in the high tech industry.