Elevating the Voice of Mid-Career Academic Women Leaders in Broadening Participation in STEM

Elevating the Voice of Mid-Career Academic Women Leaders in Broadening Participation in STEM

Kimarie Engerman, Camille McKayle, Angelicque Tucker Blackmon, Karyl Askew
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4451-1.ch005
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This research is about understanding and elevating the experienced voice of women in academic leadership positions at the mid-career point. Mid-career is a time characterized by various emotional and mental perspectives that fall along a continuum (or spectrum) from exhausted and confused to relieved and free. The study is about women holding leadership positions where they have facilitated the success of underrepresented students at HBCUs to broaden participation in STEM. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used in this study to understand the journey of four mid-career academic women leaders at four HBCUs. A semi-structured interview protocol was administered. An analysis of women's responses to challenges and successes revealed that they experienced more success than challenges. The findings of the study have implications for future leadership development for women in academe.
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Literature Review

Leadership Opportunities for Mid-Career Women

Welch et al. (2019) stated that mid-career is characterized as a time of creativity and productivity for some women in academe, but disillusionment and stagnation for others. Senior academic leadership opportunities are vehicles through women’s mid-career stagnation into creativity, productivity, and meaning. Senior academic leaders have distinct titles and positions, such as deans, provosts, vice presidents, and presidents. While the work of senior academic leaders varies, a common element of academic leadership is that the work is vision-driven, grounded in advocacy, centered in equity, and focused on stewardship (Montgomery, 2020). Senior leadership roles can provide mid-career women an outlet to exercise their creativity and acquired power to implement change and reinvigorate career aspirations and fulfillment (Kiral and Basara, 2019).

The problem is that women are underrepresented in senior academic leadership positions (Fuesting et al., 2018; Yeh, 2018). Usually, serving as department chair is the mid-career entry point for women faculty. Unfortunately, many do not aspire to continue beyond leading as a department chair. This stagnated aspiration creates a void in the leadership pipeline. The gap in transitioning mid-career faculty into senior academic leadership positions impacts succession planning, leadership sustainability, and mid-career stagnation (Baker et al., 2019; Zenger, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Academic Leadership: The ability to implement change through power.

CASL: Center for the Advancement of STEM Leadership.

HBCUs: Historically Black Colleges and Universities that predominantly serve minority students. These institutions were founded before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields.

Mid-Career: The period after receiving tenure and before one considers retirement.

Broadening Participation: The deliberate attempt to increase the number of minority students receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in STEM fields.

Academic Leaders: Individuals in senior level positions at an institution of higher learning. These titles and positions include president, vice president, provost, and dean.

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