Leadership development for women in higher education: a multiphase mixed methods case study

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Amy Williams Strickland (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Colleen Fairbanks

Abstract: The purpose of this research is to describe how an established state-based women-only leadership development program for women in higher education prepares women to lead and explore how alumnae of the program understand leadership and perceive themselves as leaders. This embedded single case study followed a multiphase mixed methods design that gathered information about the program and its alumnae from program observations, document review, surveys, and interviews. The findings from the surveys and interviews indicate that the program is professionally and personally impactful to the alumnae, in that it helps them build their network, understand higher education, gain confidence, and clarify their career goals. Strengths of the program, in this case, were the benefits of connections to and learning from women at other institutions in the state, demographic and professional diversity of the cohorts, the breadth of topics covered, and time away for structured reflection to explore their authentic leadership style. The majority (73%) of the 62 survey respondents indicated they were extremely or very satisfied with the program. The lowest level of satisfaction was from full professors, and the highest marks were from executives, staff, and department heads. The most cited points for needed improvements were offering alumnae events and advanced training after graduation. From a quantitative analysis of program impact, we found developing leader identity was the lowest-rated outcome of the program, yet an important factor in leadership development for women (Knipfer, Shaughnessy, Hentschel, & Schmid, 2017; Peterson, 2019; R. Selzer, Howton, & Wallace, 2017). The second part of this research looked at women’s perception of themselves as leaders, the influences of their ability to lead, and obstacles that they have faced. A third of participants described their style as collaborative, which supports previous research on women’s leadership styles (Madden, 2011; O’Neil, Hopkins, & Bilimoria, 2015; R. A. Selzer & Robles, 2019). The most common obstacles that these women faced in their pursuit of leadership were the structural blocks of organizational culture and bureaucracy, time-intensive administrative tasks, undeveloped leader identity, work-life balance, and ageism/generational differences. These obstacles are reflective of findings previous research women’s paths to leadership (Ely & Meyerson, 2000; Ibarra, Ely, & Kolb, 2013; Kezar, 2000; Knipfer et al., 2017; Lester & Sallee, 2017; Madsen, Longman, & Daniels, 2012). Transformational leadership was the primary theory of this project, as it is the theme of the leadership program for the case. It is also one of the most cited theories of effective leadership (Anderson & Sun, 2017; Bass & Avolio, 1996) and is often linked to women in leadership (Eagly, Johannesen-Schmidt, & van Engen, 2003; Mokat, Tumbel, & Pangkey, 2019; Vinkenburg, van Engen, Eagly, & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2011) and organizational change (Abrell, Rowold, Weibler, & Moenninghoff, 2011; Groves, 2020). This case study provides a description and analysis of the curriculum of the program, feedback about the program, and perceptions about leadership from alumnae. This case study explored a leadership development program and the thoughts of its alumnae about leadership. The design of the study and the findings could be valuable to leaders and designers of leadership development programs for women, particularly in fields where there is an underrepresentation of diversity in leadership positions. It might also be of interest to scholars and practitioners of higher education leadership, transformational leadership, and leader development.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2020
Leadership Development, Leadership Development for Women, Leadership Development for Women in Higher Education, Leadership Development in Higher Education
Educational leadership
Leadership in women
Career development

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