Women’s crucible leadership experiences: through the lens of the four-frame organisational model

Katarzyna Bachnik, Liza Howe-Walsh, Lisa Critchley, Marisa Alicea, Maria Guajardo, Christa Washington

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Purpose: This study explores the individual lived crucible experiences of women leaders in higher education (HE) and business as the catalyst to investigate organisational inequality regimes that prevent women leaders from fully participating, contributing, and flourishing at work. Drawing upon Bolman and Deal’s four-frame theoretical organisational model, this study analyses women’s lived crucible leadership experiences to better understand the organising processes and practices that render intersectionality invisible that reinforce and perpetuate inequality regimes.

Design/methodology/approach: A collaborative autoethnographic research method was selected for data collection. The research team members each selected one significant crucible moment from their professional career and used the Gibb’s six-part reflective cycle to document their narrative and reflect on their leadership experience. A reflexive thematic analysis was used based on Braun and Clarke’s six phases.

Findings: The study features the importance of creating a climate in organizations that acknowledges the need for greater equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) to support women leaders. Four global themes emerged from the analysis of the leadership narratives: Organization, Power dynamics, Emotional distress and perseverance, and Intersectionality. These themes illuminate a greater understanding of organizational life for women and confirm the presence of inequality regimes of gender and race.

Originality: This is the first study to explore the impact of women leaders' crucible experiences through the lens of the Bolman and Deal's model that highlights the need to consider an EDI lens as the fifth frame.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalGender in Management
Early online date23 Mar 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 23 Mar 2023


  • women
  • leadership
  • inequality regimes
  • equity
  • diversity
  • inclusion
  • organisational model
  • gender
  • organisational culture
  • organisational structure
  • perseverance
  • power dynamics

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