Living and Leading Authentically: Staying True to Oneself as a Mid-Career Female Academic

Living and Leading Authentically: Staying True to Oneself as a Mid-Career Female Academic

Sapna Vyas Thwaite (University of Michigan, Flint, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4451-1.ch011
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This chapter explores the personal and professional challenges faced by female professors in academia, particularly women at the mid-career stage. It draws upon an authentic leadership framework and provides recommendations for how higher education institutions can support mid-career female academics in their quest to reinvigorate their professional vision and goals in the mid-career space. It also provides suggestions to help mid-career female academics be successful but true to themselves.
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Personal And Professional Challenges Faced By Female Academics

According to Houser’s (2019) examination of unconscious biases in academia, the percentage of female tenured faculty in the European Union and United States hovers between 20% - 33%, despite over half of all PhDs being awarded to women, in several European nations these numbers are even lower. Women occupy very few senior academic positions in Belgium (15.6%), Germany (17.3%), the United Kingdom (17.5%), France (19.3%), Switzerland (19.3%), and Sweden (23.8%) (“Key challenges”, March 7, 2019). There are multiple challenges referenced in the literature that contribute to these low numbers. Service commitments, for instance, consume much of female academics’ time and resources. This holds true particularly for female faculty of color, who often take on additional service and mentorship duties that align with their institution’s goals of diversity and inclusion (Carson et al., 2019). Having more substantial service and advising loads relative to their male colleagues may impact their ability to make more conspicuous professional contributions such as participating in defined leadership roles.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Vulnerability: Allowing oneself to feel emotionally fragile.

Identity: One’s sense of self.

Values: What matters to you.

Relational Leadership: Leading with “us” in mind.

Mid-Career: A critical time of transition and career progression for experienced professionals.

Invisible: Not being seen.

Authenticity: Being true to oneself and others.

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