Support Is Not Just for Pantyhose

Support Is Not Just for Pantyhose

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1891-4.ch004

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It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. - J.K. Rowling

As women start to entertain, or engage in, leadership opportunities, it’s important to seek out a variety of supports and support systems. The current literature base on assistance for academic middle managers is limited, Floyd (2016) posits that more support, and more individualized types of assistance are needed. He states that it takes more than one type of professional support to not only survive, but thrive, in the workplace. More than just a two-pronged approach and potentially as numerous as spokes on a hairbrush, the type of needed professional support depends on the individual and the various assistance available to her. It’s important to seek out help, advice, professional development, allies, and self-care (just to name a few) when needed. Below we outline a few of the types of professional support that could be, or should be, available to women currently in or aspiring to leadership in higher education.


Formal Professional Development

Professional Development programs geared specifically for women have become established over the last decade both on an international/national level, and more locally, in the workplace. Webinars and other online professional development opportunities are also available, at minimal to no cost. While male leaders certainly do seek out professional development opportunities, the sad fact is that women need to do so, and the more formally, the better, so that these opportunities can be listed on professional resumes. Seeing professional development programs on an aspiring female leader’s resume or vitae adds an element of credibility not only to a woman’s skill set, but also to her seriousness in pursuing higher administrative positions. These are issues that men leaders do not contend with, but are very real for women. The more we can do to mitigate any doubt in our skills, abilities and intentions, the better off we will be in our current positions and as we make our way up the ranks of leadership.

Several well-known and long-established professional development programs geared for women in leadership are in existence today. The American Council on Education (ACE) has a variety of leadership programs available for individuals at various levels of administration. Some are geared specifically for the position which an individual holds or to which she aspires, others are categorized demographically, while others focus on development of specific skill sets. A few are simply broad sessions for leadership in general. Three of the ACE initiatives are specifically targeted toward women: Moving the Needle: Advancing Women in Higher Education Leadership, Regional Women’s Leadership Forum, and National Women’s Leadership Forum. The Moving the Needle initiative ( is similar to the Regional Forum in most respects, except that it is geared toward senior women administrators (i.e. deans and above) seeking to move into university presidencies and vice presidencies.

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