Advancing Women Leaders in Academe: Creating a Culture of Inclusion

Advancing Women Leaders in Academe: Creating a Culture of Inclusion

Cynthia Roberts
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0672-0.ch012
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Much has been written about the dearth of women in leadership positions within the academy both in the United States as well as abroad, however, the percentage of women in key roles continues to remain stagnant. This chapter reviews the forces at play that promote and/or hinder the advancement of women into leadership roles. Several barriers to progression have been identified in the literature ranging from implicit bias, individual preference, and struggles with work life balance to organizational issues such lack of adequate role models and a culture structured around masculine archetypes. Although much is written about programming aimed at the individual or micro level, the larger context of organizational culture must be addressed in order to effect real change. The author suggests that creating a culture of inclusion can facilitate advancement and equity and reviews aspects of the organization that can be utilized as levers for change.
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There are numerous accounts in the literature which have spoken to the dearth of women in leadership positions in institutions of higher education. A recent study of the American Council of Education (2012), notes that although women earn a majority of post- secondary degrees in the states, they occupy just 26 percent of all college presidencies. Morley’s (2013) compilation of data shows similar findings for senior leadership of educational institutions in the United Kingdom and European Union. Although women outnumber men at the undergraduate level, the percentage of women declines as one progresses up the academic ranks and organizational hierarchy. Other statistics corroborate this phenomenon (Grove, 2013) and indicate that females outnumber males at the undergraduate level, comprising 60% of that population, and make up 50% of early career academics. By the professorial level, the percentage of women has dwindled to 19%. In the UK, female vice-chancellors hold 14% of the positions. The rate of advancement to date has also appeared to stall as well (Madsen, 2012; Harris & Leberman, 2012), although recent news indicates that is may be increasing incrementally (Elms, 2015).

Morley and Crossouard (2015) in their extensive review of practices in South Asia which encompassed Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, suggest that the percentages of women in leadership are even lower. In most cases, with the exception of Sri Lanka, disaggregated data related to gender was not available. Similar findings from Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria have also been noted.

This chapter examines the forces at play that help or hinder women’s advancement through the higher education hierarchy, reviews current initiatives designed to assist this process and makes the case for developing a culture of inclusion.

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