This study considers the factors involved in executive coaching that helped senior women to thrive. In analysis that applied the principles of constructivist grounded theory, the study explored the unique experiences of individual senior women in their executive coaching engagements and supports recent discourse and evidence suggesting a need for a gender perspective in coaching senior women (Leimon, Moscovici and Goodier 2011, Peltier 2010, Vinnecombe and Singh 2003). Participant experiences of executive coaching highlighted the construction of a professional identity as a leader as a central theme. As a result, the study builds on the recent discourse and research linking professional identity construction to leader development (DeRue, Ashford, Cotton 2009, Ibarra, Snook and Ramo 2008, Gardner and Avolio 2005, Lord and Brown 2005). The findings suggest the opportunity to explicitly tailor aspects of executive coaching of senior women to the construction of their professional leadership identity. Based on these observations the study suggests a conceptual framework that positions professional identity construction as a developmental continuum and outlines the contributing factors and derailers for female managers in this process. This developmental framework applies a gender perspective to professional identity formation (Sealy and Singh 2010) and captures the core themes identified by participants. The suggested framework may serve as a potential guide for executive coach practitioners and organisations to assist them in addressing and optimising the development needs of their senior women.
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