Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

Program Name/Specialization

Community, Policy, Planning and Organizations


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Ginette Lafreniere

Advisor Role

Thesis Advisor

Second Advisor

Laura Mastronardi

Advisor Role

Committee Member


The purpose of this research study is to explore the experiences of women within the Region of Waterloo along their journeys to community leadership. The literature review reveals the predominance of deficits-based research on the barriers preventing women from attaining positions of leadership and a significant gap in scholarship on female community leaders. This qualitative study consisted of semi-structured interviews with 15 female community leaders. It was influenced by an intersectional feminist perspective and used a constructivist grounded theory approach. The findings of this study offer three groups of related factors that can encourage, support and recognize the increasing number of women attaining positions of leadership within their communities. The first group of related factors reconceptualises community leadership based on the experiences of the participants. The second group of related factors addresses the precursors that foster the emergence of community leadership capacity in girls and young women. The third group of related factors addresses the main sustaining factors for female community leaders. Recommendations and possible implementation channels are described for each of these groups of related factors. The findings of this pioneering research study provide initial contributions to this under-theorized area of leadership scholarship.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season