Successful ascent of female leaders in the pharmaceutical industry: a qualitative, transcendental, and phenomenological study

Document Type


Publication Date



Purpose: This research studied the ascension of 12 female executives in one of the STEM disciplines, the pharmaceutical sector; and sheds a perspective of the setbacks, challenges and progresses these women experienced during their ascent. Design/methodology/approach: The study utilized a qualitative, transcendental, and phenomenological approach. Findings: The findings of this research identified barriers that encapsulated the study participants and created setbacks to their ascent, such as gendered structures, self, peers, direct managers, family and society. Further, this study's results revealed success strategies that represented progresses, such as having sponsors, mentors, leadership development, being flexible, self-branding, and having networks that created resiliency to the setbacks faced by the female executives within the pharmaceutical sector of STEM. Research limitations/implications: The resulting demographic sample of this research shown in Table 1 includes one diverse, female executive and presents a limitation of the data. Therefore, the underrepresentation of ethnic diversity may be due to the sampling approach or may be due to the additional barriers ethnically diverse females face in this segment of the STEM environment. Intersectionality was not examined in this research, as the primary focus of this research was female executives in the pharmaceutical sector. Further research examining the 360-Degree Gender Sphere theory and the impact of the six Success Strategies to Create Resilience, can be expanded to focus on ethnically diverse females in the broader STEM disciplines. The study results and implications for female leadership within all of STEM disciplines are timely and relevant. Practical implications: The practical implications include creating awareness for women and men in STEM, of the barriers encountered by women and the success strategies needed to ascend and self-actualize. Social implications: The implications of these research findings impact the pharmaceutical industry, all STEM disciplines, policy makers, educational systems and potentially society as a whole. Originality/value: This study was conducted as original research.

Publication Title

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

First Page Number


Last Page Number




This document is currently not available here.