Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


Women continue to experience a range of barriers in the domain of leadership and have not as yet achieved equality or equity. An empirical and non-empirical literature review showed that the historic evolution of leadership theory and the practice of leadership are male dominated and masculinist with contemporary leadership bearing vestiges of gender prejudice creating systemic inequities for women. Where research has been carried out into the area of women and leadership, this has consisted of exploring the barriers which women experience at all levels of organisations, how these barriers can be overcome and the effectiveness of women’s leadership style. However, this has invariably remained within the boundaries of masculinist leadership and has not resulted in achieving relative change for women even though strategies such as diversity and legislation to eradicate inequities against women in the workplace are being pursued. With the intent of capturing multiple realities of women and men who advocate for women’s empowerment, in relation to how they perceive and experience the phenomenon of leadership and explore what is possible for women, beyond the masculinist boundaries of leadership, this study using a constructivist, phenomenological, feminist and grounded theory approach invited ten Australian women leaders of different age and background and from different workplaces to abandon the arena of leadership to conceptually explore what lies outside it in terms of women’s being, valuing and doing. A grounded theory analysis of the findings of phase 1 interviews resulted in the model of co-existence and 20 principles which applied to a co-existential way of being for women and men. A corollary model of patriarchy explicating the forces that underpin contemporary society and opposing the development of co-existence also emerged. The model of co-existence was refined in phase 2 when a grounded theory analysis of in-depth interviews with seven Australian women leaders and three Australian men leaders led to the development of an implementation plan for the model of co-existence in new and established organisations. Surpassing contemporary diversity initiatives, the model moves beyond masculinism, feminism, and patriarchy, redefining leadership and shifting the focus from the inequitable disparity between the sexes to self-fulfilment for each person. It is expected that further research of the model of co-existence in organisations will lead to additional refinement and validation as well as the creation of a discourse about co-existence and its potential to transform work and how we live.

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