Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Women college presidents: Leading with authenticity
by Corcoran, Cathy, Ed.D., University of San Francisco, 2008, 193; 3347096
Abstract (Summary)

The field of education continues to see an underrepresentation of women as presidents of colleges and universities. Four women presidents of the Ivy League universities in 2007, an unprecedented number, distracts from the fact that women still lag behind in achieving the position of president at institutions of higher learning. Women continue to hold, disproportionate to men, fewer leadership positions in the workplace of today.

It was the intent of this qualitative study to investigate the perceptions of women college presidents regarding the continuing underrepresentation of women in the college presidency; to identify the strengths and skills that allowed those women who serve as college presidents to attain those roles; to identify the challenges and barriers they overcame; and to determine how previous work/life experiences contribute to their authentic leadership roles.

The study utilized the conceptual framework of Authentic Leadership Theory. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed and findings grouped into themes. In relation to the underrepresentation of women in the college presidency, the participants perceived multiple factors, as well as persistence in discrimination and gender influences, gender inequity, and struggles for women to maintain work/life balance and suggested strategies to reverse the trend. Hard and practical skills, and people skills were revealed and strategies for aspiring college presidents to obtain them suggested. In relation to challenges and barriers, the perception and reality of the job as well as the personal and familial challenges that aspiring women leaders face were met with approaches and strategies to overcome them. Finally, in relation to their authentic leadership development, themes of personal life experience, work and professional experience and personal leadership style and substance were shared.

The study found that intervention is required in order to address the lack of women (and minority) college presidents. Institutions must make a concerted effort to identify and recruit future leaders that better reflect the communities they serve. Routes to the college presidency must be examined and alternative backgrounds considered. The role of search committee needs to be investigated and reworked. The position of college president itself needs reconsideration as does the persistent stereotype of the (male) leader that fills it to be replaced by an authentic leader's emphasis on fit with the institution, valuing people, sharing credit, and honing the leader/follower relationship and integrating one's personal beliefs and values into the role of college president.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mitchell, Patricia
School: University of San Francisco
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Management, School administration
Keywords: Authentic leadership theory, Authenticity, College presidents, Higher education administration, Leadership, Women administrators, Women college presidents
Publication Number: 3347096
ISBN: 978-1-109-02333-6
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