Date of Graduation

Winter 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Genevieve Negron-Gonzales

Second Advisor

Jane Bleasdale

Third Advisor

Danfeng Koon


The queer community's presence continues to increase in the United States, while more individuals become visible throughout workplaces. An increasingly diverse workforce leaves organizations struggling to leverage the knowledge and experience lesbian and gay leaders bring to discussions. Limited research informs organizations of the strategies lesbian and gay people in leadership roles use to navigate their ascension into their positions, while managing the disclosure of their sexual orientation and professional identity. This qualitative, phenomenological study involved recruiting 15 participants through purposeful, homogeneous sampling processes and snowball sampling, identifying cisgender lesbian or gay people in leadership or managerial roles, with a minimum of 5 years of experience, who are 50 years of age and older.

Data analysis revealed seven key findings: (a) coming out involves disclosure and concealment strategies, (b) identity includes self-care and integrating personal and professional life, (c) social change establishes new norms that cultures adapt, (d) discrimination occurs most frequently through the "lavender ceiling" and microaggression, (e) the workplace culture is most affected by leaders and policies, (f) activism is critical to the advancement of equity, and (g) Supportive leadership involves mentoring and building a professional network.

Through social constructionism theory and queer theory, this dissertation aimed to understand the key findings from the data-collection phase. The conclusions from this study highlight the impact the gay-rights movement of the 1970s and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s had on creating a generation of activist leaders. Further, workplace climate plays a significant role in disclosure decisions. Leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community aged 50 years and older tend to follow a passive-disclosure process and use a mask of professionalism to conceal their sexual orientation. Organizations have several recommended approaches to create an inclusive and open workplace for the LGBTQ community.