Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Sharon Radd, Ed.D.


Organizational Leadership, Strategic Management



The percentage of women in corporate leadership has been on a slow rise over the previous decades and the statistical representation of women in top management and executive positions continues to change at a very slow rate. Researchers on gender and organizational development are observing a shift towards interventions focused on improving the gender-balance inside organizations and systems (Burke, 2017). My research contributes to the understanding of women leader’s experiences with gender and corporate culture in male-dominated environments with a specific focus on how organizational diversity initiatives affect the working experience of woman leaders. Using qualitative research methods, I interviewed six women leaders inside male-dominated industry about their experiences with gender, corporate culture, and diversity initiatives. Though not intentional, all participants were White women in predominantly White-male led organizations. I employed Laws’ Psychology of Tokenism (Laws, 1975) to frame and inform my findings. Four themes emerged from my data to detail the experiences shared by the participants, including Gender Barriers, Loyalty, Distancing and Ray of Hope Just in Time. I reviewed my findings using each of Laws’ “agreements” of Tokenism and Laws’ prerequisites for disruption. I concluded that the dynamic between Token and Sponsor, and the underlying social system, work together to maintain the status quo, actually slowing the pace of positive change towards gender equality and inclusiveness in predominantly White settings. Finally, I recommend awareness of the agreements of tokenism combined with strategies of gendered organizations and inclusive leadership as tools to disrupt the cycle of tokenism.