Shoaa Almalki

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Date of Award

Spring 2017



Degree Level


LCSH subject

Communication in crisis management




1 online resource

Proquest Document ID





St. Mary's University (San Antonio, Texas). Department of Communication Arts

Size or duration

1 online resource (81 pages)

Document Type


First Advisor

Kennedy, Amanda

Second Advisor

Cox, Cody

Third Advisor

Hampsten, Katherine


This study examined the role of gender in crisis leadership discourse by engaging two theories, discourse of renewal theory and ethic of care, in the context of General Motors’ (GM) deadly ignition switch crisis. The purpose of this study was to explore the intersections of discourse of renewal, ethic of care, and gendered leadership focusing on the role of feminine attributes in crisis communication and applying the findings to draw new insights about the glass cliff effect. Using thematic analysis and case study methods, I analyzed current GM CEO Mary Barra’s discourse in speeches and social media posts to answer research questions RQ1: How did GM CEO Mary Barra’s crisis communication represent stereotypically feminine leadership qualities, if at all? RQ2: How do discourse of renewal themes apply to Mary Barra’s speeches and social media posts, if at all? RQ3: How do ethic of care qualities apply to Mary Barra’s speeches and social media posts, if at all? RQ4: How is discourse of renewal theory gendered, if at all? The findings provide an explanation of how the presence of feminine qualities in Barra’s discourse influences her crisis communication style. Also, the results suggest that leaders who have more feminine attributes including being visible, present, and caring about others, could be seen as more favorable in times of crisis. This explanation gives more insights on how glass cliff effect could be a strategy that organizations pursue to help communicate better with their publics during difficult times. Moreover, the overlap I found between DRT and ethic of care themes suggest that the leader-based theory presents more feminine qualities like courage, responsibility, and responsiveness to others’ needs. This overlap provides a new insight into how DRT is gendered.