Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Monica Tracey


Female union members are nearly fifty percent of the total membership of organized labor, and yet female union members continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions creating a leadership gender gap. The problem of a leadership gender gap is longstanding and is demonstrated in all levels of organized labor, from local to international unions, as well as in the labor federations. The problem stems from deep-rooted barriers that women face with leadership in labor organizations and impacts female union member’s voices and issues being heard at the bargaining table, and can therefore negatively affect women’s wages, hours and working conditions that are collectively bargained with employers by the elected union leadership.

The purpose of this study was to determine what instructional design strategies used in labor education can increase confidence and leadership skill sets of female union members and empower them into leadership roles. Using an instructional design framework that incorporated the ARCS Motivational Design Model and Design Thinking, an asynchronous, online non-credit short course was created to use as the base for the study. The core weekly topics for the course were drawn from the study’s literature review, as well as feedback from a participatory group of female union leaders. The initial course prototype was offered in October 2020 and March 2021.

Regarding general instructional design strategies, the participants were comfortable with online course formats and prefer a combination of weekly activities and the incorporation of hands-on and/or real-world material. An instructional intervention that focused on role models and self-efficacy was conducted during the third week of the course. The focus on role models proved to be highly valued by the participants. The participants cited that the activity was engaging and broadened their understanding of role models and introduced them to female labor leaders that they had not previously known of. The data collected from the participants recorded that role models demonstrated to the participants how to overcome leadership barriers and inspired them to the fact that they, too, can make positive change in leadership roles.

The participants also indicated personal and/or professional growth with their understanding of women and leadership skill development. The participants cited a host of course activities that positively affected their leadership skill sets, such as the role model activities, weekly readings and videos and discussion boards. While the role model activities stood out as having a positive effect on the participants confidence and leadership skills, it is worth noting that the participants cited several different course activities that they participated in that leads to the assumption that leadership courses need to be well-rounded and holistic to fit the diverse audience experiences and skill sets.