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Cracking the Lavender Ceiling: Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Student Affairs Professionals and Their Personal Perspectives on Career Trajectory


In higher education, the people working in student affairs are as diverse as the students who are served by these professionals. Those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are often faced with challenges to moving up the career ladder. Many who seek senior-level administrative positions, such as director, dean of students, vice president or the like, are hindered because of their sexual orientation--these LGB-identified student affairs professionals are faced with the proverbial lavender ceiling that prevents them from moving to the executive level.

This study examined the perceptions of LGB-identified student affairs professionals who are employed in or working towards executive positions on their campuses. The purpose of this research was to determine what, if any, barriers related to their career trajectories these participants faced. Further, the study sought to examine what, if any, forms of discrimination the participants encountered that prevented them from attaining the careers of their choice. The participants in the study all have more than seven years of professional experience in the field and serve at a position of director or above.

Through qualitative methods, 15 participants from four-year public universities in California were interviewed and asked a series of questions regarding their career path and how, if at all, their sexual orientation influenced their career choices. The findings indicated that, despite some negative experiences, many were still able to attain the positions they wanted.

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