Looking Back

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Well behaved women rarely make history. - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first female to win the Presidential Nomination of a major American Political Party. After all the Delegate votes were cast, she declared via video (Bloomberg Politics, 2016), “We just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet.” There are more glass ceilings yet to be cracked beyond the political arena. Academia still presents leadership challenges for women and it is our purpose, in this book, to identify those challenges, share lived experiences, and propose possible solutions for making leadership in the Academy more viable. Although it is hard to know the impact of our book, it is our hope to see increased cracks in the ceiling of higher education.

In this book, we seek to examine a long standing societal problem, the limited number of women in leadership positions. In particular, our goal is to study factors in the disparity of women and men in leadership positions in higher education. While we will focus on our experiences as “Department Chairs,” we acknowledge there continues to be a gender gap in all levels of leadership in higher education. In this book, we will share our experiences and provide some historical context. Our intentions are to recap historical context, values, and beliefs and contribute some new understandings and context to the existing body of knowledge. In this chapter, we hope to contextualize this social issue in academia with research and by outlining some of our underlying beliefs and values.



Before delving too far into our conversations, we do want to put forth a disclaimer that we are sharing our lived experiences. We have done a rather thorough review of the literature and recognize our journey is not an anomaly to most women in leadership positions; however, we acknowledge our sharing comes from our two lived experiences. We strive to provide an open and sincere dialogue in order to provide our sisters with awareness, insight, confirmation, or affirmations regarding the labyrinth women navigate. Through this research and reflection we are engaging in what Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky (2009, p.7) refer to as “getting on the Balcony” and above the “dance floor” so we can glean a more distanced and informed perspective.

Heidi and Denise have navigated through many obstacles and challenges, gender included. As reflective practitioners, we have looked at those barriers and sought to construct meaning and gain a greater understanding of them. Hopefully by sharing our stories, experiences, and lessons learned we can inspire, support, and inform others. We believe there is a critical need for women in leadership to share their journeys through the web of challenges and celebrations of successes.

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