Characteristic and Agentic Qualities of Women Leaders Amidst Global Crises: Lessons for Higher Education

Characteristic and Agentic Qualities of Women Leaders Amidst Global Crises: Lessons for Higher Education

Catherine Hayes (University of Sunderland, UK), Ian Corrie (University of Cumbria, UK), Yitka Graham (University of Sunderland, UK), Gillian M. M. Crane-Kramer (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA) and Toby Rowland (Defence Medical Academy, UK)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6491-2.ch002
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Abstract

This chapter serves to deconstruct the characteristic and agentic qualities of women leaders amidst global crises, which are also reflected in the traits of women managing in more recognisable and relatable leadership roles in the context of HE. Within this will be the core acknowledgements that on a global level the impact of crises inevitably leads to a disproportionate impact on women, a lack of prioritisation of global impetus to address levels of gender inequality, and the embedded role of gender equity in relation to human progression and development on a macro level. This global perspective illuminates the inequalities that women educators face and the impact that this has on the broader scope of human development through educational impact. Whilst situational specificity is significant in terms of the context of HE leadership, the universality of human experience underpinning them remains the connecting thread, which enables the deconstruction of meaning making in applied educational leadership.
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Introduction

‘The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognise the opportunity’

危 机

(John F Kennedy, 1917-1963)

The resonance of Kennedy’s words, amidst a global pandemic almost sixty years on from his own demise, serve to echo the sentiment of the optimism of humanity which will inevitably ensure the development of a new normality following the emergence of Coronavirus. We write this chapter as five authors representing our respective male and female genders and we have aimed to provide a collective insight into the theoretical perspectives impacting upon the capacity of women to demonstrate their agentic qualities amidst global crisis in Higher Education (HE). The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has ensured not only that the human race has dealt with a sudden and harsh reminder of its own position relative to the risks man lives with on an everyday basis, but also the opportunities to initiate and manage change that these bring (Peters et al, 2020). The existential crisis facing Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as a direct consequence in 2020 has served as a lens through which other facets of ambiguity and contingency also influence meta-thinking concerning their strategic governance and operationalisation of policies in practice (Pellegrini et al, 2020). Facing ethical dilemmas, institutional leaders also have to grapple with compounding intraneous and extraneous variables which exacerbate the current crisis situations HEIs now face (Rapanta et al, 2020).

In its entirety, this chapter also serves to deconstruct the characteristic and agentic qualities of women leaders amidst global crises, which are also reflected in the traits of women managing in more recognisable and relatable leadership roles in the context of Higher Education leadership (Thomas, 2020). The core acknowledgements that on a global level the impact of crises inevitably leads to a disproportionate impact on women, a lack of prioritisation of global impetus to address levels of gender inequality and the embedded role of gender equity in relation to human progression and development on a macro level is apparent (Power, 2020; WHO, 2020). This global perspective illuminates the inequalities that women educators face and the impact that this has on the broader scope of professional development through educational impact (Barba and Iraizoz, 2020). Whilst situational specificity is significant in terms of the context of HE leadership, the universality of human experience underpinning them remains the connecting thread, which enables the deconstruction of meaning making in applied educational leadership experiences.

Whereas other chapters of the book have explored the stories of those women academic leaders and their personal experiences of their personal and professional lives, this chapter examines an eclectic mix of theoretical perspectives of direct relevance to the agentic characteristics of women in crisis situations. It also explores barriers to effective action in practice, all of which have had particular resonance during the Coronavirus pandemic. An examination of the policy and literature underpinning these turbulent times is essential in any consideration of how women might viably lead at an institutional, departmental and sector level. Exploring the situational specificity of where and how educational leadership is delivered is also of direct relevance to the cultural and historical legacy that still influences womens’ leadership capacities to date. As authors we represent both men and women, for whom womens’ leadership and their characteristic mechanisms of delivering this leadership in practice, are pivotal to the success of the HEIs within which we work and exert influence, both nationally and internationally.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gender: Refers to the two sexes (male and female) with reference to sociocultural difference rather than biological status. It is acknowledged that individual choice enables individuals to identify as male, female or a non-specific gender.

Temporal: Pertains to time, in the sense of currency or time-related impact of human actions and interactions.

Contingency: A planned capability or provision to deal with an unforeseen event or circumstance which would impact on an existing capacity for action.

Reflection: A process of critical thinking or contemplation on a particular area for serious thought or consideration.

Transformation: An alteration or a marked change in perspective thinking, form, nature, or appearance.

Policy: Is a course of principled action proposed and/or formally adopted by an institution, collective group, or individual.

Citizenship: The sense of subjective identity, belonging and reciprocal relationship that exists between an individual and their community, society, or nationality.

Ambiguity: The quality of being open to more than one interpretation due to vagueness, inexactness, or a degree of obscurity.

Leadership: Is the process of leading, guiding or directing the action of others – either at an institutional, collective group, or individual level.

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