Mentoring Female Leaders at Multiple Levels in One Higher Education Institution

Mentoring Female Leaders at Multiple Levels in One Higher Education Institution

Meagan Moreland (Northeastern State University, USA) and Tobi Thompson (Northeastern State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7056-1.ch002
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This chapter includes a case study of female leaders in one higher education institution where there are more female leaders than male leaders. The authors seek to explain the mentoring involved to develop the female leaders of this institution. The objective of this chapter is to determine what types of mentoring takes place for women interested in leadership positions. The purpose is to make those mentoring programs, whether formal or informal, more available to any female interested in seeking a position of leadership.
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According to Glass and Franceschini (2007) as cited in Dunbar and Kinnersley (2011), women lag behind men in leadership positions in higher education. In fact, only 30% of college presidencies were held by women in 2016 (Johnson, 2017). Moreover, “Despite the number of female graduates available for leadership positions, women do not hold associate professor or full professor positions at the same rate as their male peers” (Johnson, 2017, p. 4). This disparity is more drastic as the prestige of the position increases (Bichesel & McChesney, 2017; Dunn, Gerlach, & Hyle, 2014). Some reasons for this may be dissatisfaction with the “deprecating culture of the academy” (Patterson & Chicola, 2017, p. 36), the feeling that women might be punished for wanting to lead, a lack of clear expectations for promotion, and feelings of “alienation, hostile climate, low job satisfaction, and failure to become fully engaged in the academy” (Patterson & Chicola, 2017, p. 36). However, Dunn, Gerlach, and Hyle suggest that women may possess the leadership characteristics universities need in order to meet the needs of rapidly changing demands (2017). “Because they have not been socialized in accordance with the male-centric leadership model, they are relative outsiders who must forge new ways of leading. Women have more freedom than their male counterparts to ‘role-make’ as opposed to ‘role-take” (Dunn, Gerlach, & Hyle, 2017, p. 9).

While the culture of a university plays a role in the development of leaders, research suggests mentorship might alter that trend allowing more females to serve in leadership positions. Edds-Ellis and Keaster (2013) cite multiple studies (Lyons & Oppler, 2004; Noe, Greenberger, & Wang, 2002; Wanberg, Kaymmeyer-Mueller, & Marchese, 2006) indicating the following positive effects of mentorship on women aspiring to be leaders: “…mentoring assists proteges with adopting an organization’s cultural norms, increasing career opportunities and mobility, and expanding their professional networks” (p.1), as well as “…allows aspiring female leaders to develop important knowledge about the expectations and complex roles of leadership in higher education” (Edds-Ellis & Keaster, 2013, p.1). Schott (2004) found higher levels of confidence in female administrators who had mentors (Dunbar & Kinnersley, 2011).

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