ERIC Identifier: ED410846
Publication Date: 1997-00-00
Author: Chliwniak, Luba
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Higher Education Washington DC.| BBB32577 _ George Washington Univ. Washington
DC. Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
Higher Education Leadership: Analyzing the Gender Gap. ERIC
Only 16% of college and university women are presidents, only 13% of chief
business officers are women, and only 25% of chief academic officers are women.
Yet, women comprise more than 52% of the current student body. While colleges
and universities are dominated by male leadership, however, concerns regarding
administrative procedures that exclude women and create chilly campus climates
continue to plague academic institutions. Many believe that by closing the
leadership gap, institutions would become more centered on process and persons
(described as feminized concerns) rather than focused on tasks and outcomes
(attributed to masculine styles of leadership).
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT?
Most of us
are intellectually aware of the complexity of women's situation and recognize
that it needs to be viewed in a broad historical context of inclusion and
exclusion. By exploring women's place in higher education institutions
historically and currently, the lack of women's leadership is analyzed to
determine the reasons for the gap and persistence factors in maintaining the
Societal and organizational conceptions of leadership vary according to
authors' assumptions. However, it is a common notion that leaders are
individuals who provide vision and meaning for an institution and embody the
ideals toward which the organization strives. Five common frames of reference
for organizational structures inform us that leadership within these structures
are traditionally conceived. Most conceptions of organizations assume that
leadership emanates from the apex of a hierarchy. A sixth frame, A Web of
Inclusion, is offered as an alternative, feminized frame of reference.
WOMEN AND MEN LEADERS: DIFFERENT OR ALIKE?
issue is that leadership traditionally has been studied using male norms as the
standard for behaviors. As noted by Desjardins, Acker, Gutek, and others, women
adopted male standards of success to better fit into male-dominated hierarchical
structures and systems. Traditional scholars, such as Birnbaum and Mintzberg,
view leaders as being alike and genderless. However, scholars such as Barrie
Thorne and Deborah Tannen, who research gender differences, posit that social
norms and issues of gender-role ascription create differences between women and
Carol Gilligan's research on cognitive development has provided impetus for
many of today's scholars to explore and revise leadership as we knew it.
Gilligan argues that a single model of reasoning patterns and stages of moral
development fails to capture the different realities of women's lives. By
offering two different modes of reasoning patterns, a more complex but better
understandable explanation for the human experience would also be more
inclusive. Sally Helgesen, for example, examines how women chief executive
officers make decisions, gather and dispense information, delegate tasks,
structure their organizations, and motivate their employees. She concludes that
women leaders place more emphasis on relationships, sharing, and process, while
male CEOs, as per Mintzberg's studies, focus on completing tasks, achieving
goals, hoarding of information, and winning. Gilligan's work identified a
separate development pathway that results in personal and relational
responsibility being of highest value for females and legalistic justice for
individuals being highest for males. Therefore, as described by several authors,
while men are more concerned with systems and rules, women are more concerned
with relations and atmosphere.
DOES THE GENDER GAP MATTER?
Many authors have produced
scholarship surrounding women's way of knowing compared with men's way of
knowing. Recent scholarship speculates how these gender differences impact on
the values held by leaders, and how these values influence institutional
structures and infrastructures. If styles and approaches are indistinguishable
between women and men, the gender gap is a numerical inequity and should be
corrected for ethical reasons. But, if leadership approaches are different, the
gender gap may represent an impediment to potential institutional improvements.
THE GLASS CEILING IN HIGHER EDUCATION
male-dominated structures, men in organizations have come to view their
perspectives and norms as being representative of gender-neutral, human
organizational structures, and assume the structure is "asexual." Sheppard found
that these male filters render women's experiences as invisible. Subtle,
indirect obstacles as a result of labeling or stereotyping place stumbling
blocks in the career paths of many women. Cultural artifacts in higher
education, such as tenure-track standards, pedagogical practices, marginalizing
of certain studies and scholarship, apparently preserve "appropriate" and
different spheres for men and women in academe. A remedial vision--that is, one
that is not seen through the eyes of only males--would add depth and new
perspectives for shared images of posthierarchical institutional structures in
IMPLICATIONS TO THE INSTITUTION
effects curriculum and administration in that resources are allocated based on
the values of the institution. Several scholars contend that a leader with an
emerging, inclusive style of leadership could provide an institution with new
values and ethics grounded in cooperation, community, and relationships within
the community. Higher education's leadership also needs to become more
reflective of the constituents it serves.
Several actions that can be taken to bring about this change. Clearly, it is
easier to promote change when in a position of authority. Transformational
leadership develops organizational consensus and empowers those who are
like-minded in their goals. Further, since patriarchy has been organized through
men's relationships with other men, a similar unity among women is an effective
means by which to combat institutionalized forms and norms that exclude women.
And, regardless of position, women in higher education need to become more aware
when the sense of being a marginal member or an unequal member of the academy
impedes performance. A first step in this process is the elimination of campus
micro-inequities, those behaviors and actions which create a chilly campus
climate for women and minority groups.
It is important to remain vigilant to the effects of organizational norms,
structures, and systems for many of the issues encompassed within the gender gap
are a result of systems and not individuals. However, because they are only
systems, they can be examined and changed. Furthermore, of most importance in
the process of change is the recognition that equality cannot be externally
assigned until it has been internally perceived by institutional members. By
attending to traditional institutional practices such as exclusionary tenure
criteria, sexual harassment, and wage gaps, incremental but effective changes
can reshape institutional culture, and the associated images of leaders and
leadership in higher education.
Desjardins, C. 1989. "Gender Issues in Community
College Leadership." AAWCJC Journal: 5-10.
Gilligan, C., J.V. Ward, and J.M. Taylor, eds. 1988. Mapping the Moral
Domain: A Contribution of Women's Thinking to Psychological Theory and
Education. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Pearson, C.S., D.L. Shavlik, and J.G. Touchton. eds. 1989 Educating the
Majority: Women Challenge Tradition in Higher Education. New York: American
Council on Education, Macmillan.
Ross, M., M.F. Green, C. Henderson. 1993. The American College President: A
1993 Edition. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education.
This ERIC digest is based on a full-length report in the ASHE-ERIC Higher
Education Report series Volume 25, Number 4, Higher Education Leadership:
Analyzing the Gender Gap by Luba Chliwniak.