Women in Leadership Positions in Higher Education

In our study of literacy/English teacher educators we asked participants about their career path. They did a timeline (personal and professional) of turning points. A number have held administrative positions in the university but many found the workload crushing. So I (Clare) was very interested in the recent study, Lost leaders – Women in the Global Academy, which studied females in administrative positions in higher education. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20140108162154821
It showed that “[g]ender equality legislation, socio-economic and de-traditionalisation factors have all played a part in this welcome trend [increase in female students in higher education], yet so far they appear to have had relatively little impact on opportunities for women to reach senior management and academic leadership positions in the sector.”  Why are women under-represented in senior leadership positions in universities? In the study they found that “[m]any women … discussed the benefits of gaining power and influence in organisations to effect change. However, leadership was frequently constructed as loss – loss of status and self esteem in the case of unsuccessful applications, but loss of independence, autonomy, research time and well-being when applications were successful.”
I believe there is a real loss not only to women themselves when they choose to not pursue leadership positions but also to institutions when women are under-represented at the decision-making table. I have held a number of senior administrative positions and I can relate to feelings of loss but I also felt there were much higher expectations for me than for my male counter-parts. As a result the position became untenable.  I felt it was a loss to me definitely. Was it a loss to the institution?  Hhhhmmm….. Clare

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