Date of Award

Fall 10-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Heather M. Annulis

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. H. Quincy Brown

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. John J. Kmiec

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Dale L. Lunsford

Committee Member 4 School



Women entering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations increased by 19% between 1970 and 2019, but at 74% of the STEM workforce, men still dominate the field (Martinez & Christnacht, 2021). In the nuclear industry, this disparity is most apparent with few women holding leadership roles within nuclear organizations (Kovaleski, 2014; Gaspar & Dubertrand, 2019). While research suggests that companies with women leaders in the manager level through the board level excel in organizational performance (Catalyst, 2007), a problem exists for women when trying to promote to leadership positions, especially to the C-suite in STEM fields (Warner, 2014).

Findings from previous studies provide conclusions; however, female employees remain underrepresented in leadership positions in male-dominated industries (Huang et al., 2019). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore and identify female leaders’ perceptions of barriers, enablers, and strategies that influence career advancement in the nuclear industry. Female leaders, who hold senior manager or above positions and have employment in the nuclear industry, served as the population for this study.

Through the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), the researcher explored, identified, and interpreted the experiences of women in the nuclear energy industry to determine the barriers, enablers, and business strategies that influence career advancement. To capture the lived experiences, the researcher facilitated virtual semi-structured, one-on-one interviews to identify recurring themes. Study participants (n = 6) suggest the creation of a formal mentoring program, an increased focus on diversity recruiting, and exposure to developmental opportunities enhance females’ career advancement. A focus group, used for triangulation, validated the study’s findings. Recommendations for nuclear industry leaders offer business strategies to promote the advancement of female careers.