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Aanalyze the lived experiences of women inhigher educational leadership positions.

Male Exclusionary Tendencies and Leadership Model

Studies have shown that women are prevented from securing influential positions in the formal leadership system (Rhode, 2003). This is a fact that needs the attention of all that women are equally skilled like men. It is for this reason that they can work in good leadership positions.  equal importance considering that women have the temperament to succeed in leadership positions. Women are subjected to biases and obstacles to making their mark in leadership positions. Historical documents are evidence of the fact that women are not incapable of working in leadership positions. One very luminous example of such a woman is Harriet Tubman who was an abolitionist and is revered as a legend in American history for her fearless personality. Despite such illustrations, it is found that the concentration of women in the leadership is limited compared to their male counterparts.

Male exclusionary tendencies, male practices, and the leadership model, male versus female leadership, inhibit the mobility of women in the influential positions in the organizational, institutional and the political seats(Dunn, Gerlach & Hyle, 2014).  Some of the harsh male practices are taking the undue advantage of the female sex, abusing them physically and mentally. They think that women are weaker so they often dominate the females. They also support the idea of getting higher pay than their female co-workers for the same kind of work.

According to Dunn, Gerlach, & Hyle, (2014), there is a limited number of women who serve in the high-ranking managerial roles.Even if there are women applicants who are interested in applying for higher managerial or leadership positions, they are not accepted by the recruitment processes.It is seen that even in the educational sectors like the schools and colleges, research centers and many other prestigious institutions, the number of women workers are limited. A woman in a leadership position needs to prove her credibility in terms of her leadership skills, understanding, and dispositions that would enable her to attain a leadership position and contribute to the existing gap in gendered leadership(Katuna, 2014). There is another aspect to this phenomenon. Women are judged and scrutinized for their feminine features that are deemed incompatible with the administrative male standard of aggression, confidence, competence, and arduousness(Riger, Ahrens & Blickenstaff, 2015). This leads to the woman being perceived as subordinate and inferior to men, and women who perform the administrative roles are deemed as "too manly" and thereby flouting their gendered norms and rules (Fitzgerald, 2014).

Barriers Faced by Women in Leadership Positions

The persistent underrepresentation of women in leadership positions, evident through the consistent male representation, is, therefore, a social problem that needs to change (Fitzgerald, 201). Women are judged for their purportedly feminine features that do not match the male standard of competitiveness and confidence (Cahn, 2015). The society also largely contributes to the gender leadership gap due to the gender roles and responsibilities that are given or areassociated with women. The objective of this phenomenological study is to explore and ascertain the lived experience of women who are in a higher educational leadership position. The focus will be emphasized on their perceptions about the dearth of women in key leadership and influential positions.

 Leadership is about working with people simply because you cannot lead alone. Women leaders usually perceive leadership as a mutual process and are more likely to focus on partnering, collaboration, and networks as significant scopes of leadership (Longman & Madsen, 2014). Much research about women leaders shows how they are likely to lead groups by using a shared process rather than by leading alone (Fine, 2009). In these studies, women leaders talk about the significance of building a team, pursuing harmony, and utilizing all perspectives as significant dimensions to effective leadership process (Longman & Madsen, 2014). Female leadership is important because only women can make the social changes that benefit them (Katuna, ‎2014). The study will delve into the contributions of women in the higher education world and understand their contributions in the domain of leadership and the benefits they have brought to the organization and the society(Davis & Maldonado, 2015). This includes the social norms, beliefs, values, principles, and cultures that have thwarted the mobility of women in securing important leadership positions in the political, social and economic arenas (Joseph-Collins, 2017). This would be beneficial in understanding the different factors that would influence women in obtaining leadership positions in the domain of higher education. In juxtaposition to the earlier achievements of women, there have been considerable improvements in the condition of women (Flanagan, 2002). Therefore, the thrust of the study would be to understand the different factors that have made a huge contribution to the emerging inequalities between the male and female workers. The research is about the understanding the individual experiences of women in the higher education administration and thereby understand their success. Another objective of the research study will be to understand the dynamic systems that have empowered women to seek leadership positions. The study will be interested in delving into the following research questions:

Importance of Female Leadership

RQ1. How do women mentorship programs influence women in attaining top leadership positions in higher education?

RQ2. What support do women need to attain successful careers as leaders in the domain of higher education?

RQ3.How does the representation of women in higher education leadership positions reflect about equality?

RQ4.What are the various factors motivating or limiting women from attaining top leadership positions in higher education?

The problem to be discussed in this study is why there is an underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. Although women are occupying important positions in the higher education system, the majority of them are still dominated by males. Women’s access to senior leadership is still limited(Witz, 2013). With the change in workplace demographics, a new way of leading people must be developed (Dunn, Gerlach, & Hyle, 2014). A study will be conducted in the field of higher education that will see the access the women in the leadership positions in the higher education domain.

According to Deborah (2016), women in leadership positions are also models for other women since they show the societal impacts of equality, change workplace policies in a positive way, and promote diversity. Understanding the underlying issues of inequalities in the recruitment of women to the higher education leadership positionswill aid in increasing the representation of women in the economy. To some extent, this male-centric work culture bars women from realizing their potential. Both genders are given equal opportunities in the marketplace, but women find it harder to blend in the male-dominated system because of the cultural bias showing women as unable to handle the pressure that comes with leadership. It is a fact that women have several positions to opt for in the job market or the labor market. It is just the lack of enough support that often discourages the women to rise to a higher position in the job intensive market.

With changes in the workplace demographics, a new way of leading people must be developed (Dunn, Gerlach, & Hyle, 2014).

It is notable that fields of higher education show women underrepresentation because of a lack of female leaders in the field. Women pay attention to the ways in which they are being treated by their co-workers. They want a mutual share in terms of power and the respect.

Today’s environment is different and the context in which a woman will exercise leadership is crucial in shaping her leadership style. Although individual differences affect leadership styles, studies show that gender influences the method of leadership (Klenke, 2017).

It is also troubling that females have greater barriers than males in leadership. Women are capable of leading in positions that are being occupied and managed by males.Women’s ability in leadership should be explored to understand their effectiveness in leadership. Madsen (2015) recommends that other researchers should put more emphasis on understanding women experiences in leadership.

Research Questions

The purpose of this study is to conduct a phenomenological study to analyze the lived experiences of women inhigher educational leadership positions. It also shows the implications of the limited role of women in leadership positions. The study is focused on understanding the implications of women mentorship programs, the motivating and inhibiting factors for leadership roles, and the impact of representation of women in higher leadership positions on equality. This study will illustrate the contributions of women in leadership and the benefits they bring to organizations, as well as society. This entails investigating how the dynamic systems such as the culture, social norms, beliefs, and values have enabled or limited women to attain leadership positions in the political, social, and economic arenas (Joseph-Collins, 2017).This will, therefore, help the researchers in understanding the various factors that influence women in acquiring leadership positions in the field of higher education. In fact, when compared to the past scenarios,women have now been involved in the mainstream activities and are also being appointed at the leadership position. Earlier women were not given any chances of taking the basic school or the college education. They were only asked to perform the domestic chores. However, now they are getting educated and are working at different levels in the educational domain. However, they are not appointed in the leadership positions in the higher education field. These positions include the principles, the idea of colleges, members of University boards and other such position. There is still a lack of women working in these positions. So, there is somewhere an inequality existing.

So, there is the need to understand the various factors that influence women and limit them to achieving the topmost leadership positions as compared to men. There are various factors that contribute to the inequality between the number of man and women occupying the leadership positions in the higher education sectors. The various factors include the societal norms, rules, and beliefs. The society, through the cultural myths and social constructions, has defined women as submissive, cooperative and less competitive as compared to men(Huelser & Heal, 2014). Nevertheless, the challenges faced have not deterred women from becoming leaders in the current generation (Klenke, 2017).

The research further seeks to determine how the dynamic systems, like empowering women practices and programmes have supported women to take up leadership positions in the higher education system. (Deborah, 2016). Women have risen in their social and professional arenas. as per the number of women in leadership today as opposed to the past where women were not enabled to take up leadership positions. The earlier practice was based on a norm of the responsibility of men to be leaders and always guide women.

Statement of Problem

A phenomenological research design will be utilized to focus deeply on the positive approaches of bringing in more number of women in the higher education leadership positions. These approaches are those that can and must be taken to provide more employment to the women and bring equality in the rights and the pay scale of men and women. This research will do a phenomenological study in order to find out the reasons that are involved with the lack of women in the higher education leadership positions.(Creswell, 2009; Smith et al., 2009).  

This study will mainly be dealin with the problems that women have been facing in all these days that hindered them from attaining the leadership positions. There will also be a discusiion of the ways in which the women can be placed in the higher leadrrship positions in the higher education domain.

The liberal feminist theory can be used in this aspect. This is a theory that talks about the equal rights of men and women. This theory is good for this purpose as it does not condemn men or the male-centric ideas. This is different from the radical feminism and this theory also never promote hatred against men. There has to be a proper rational approach at each and every management position so that they can open more leadership arenas to the female employees in the higher education domains as well.  There have to be programmed like giving equal opportunities to women in terms of employment and in terms of the pay scale as well.

Studies have shown that despite having the requisite qualities and the potential to succeed in the field of leadership, the occupational mobility of a woman was curbed due to the glass ceiling, sex stereotyping, a horizontal and vertical division of labor. According to the conceptual framework of the vertical division of labor, it can be found that the toxic masculine work environment constrains the mobility of women, leading a limited number of women occupying the lucrative positions in the company (Mies, 2014). On the other hand, the conceptual framework of horizontal division of labor ensures that although men and women occupy the same position, they are treated differently and not paid equally for performing the same task. Women have been conspicuous in freedom movements and have been active agents in leadership roles. However, there is a banal invisibilization of women in the corporate sector. Male exclusionary measures like the in-group preference and the notions of homosociality operate with the intention of keeping women out of the powerful positions. According to feminist scholars working on gender and organization, it was found that whilst private patriarchy works to constrain the life chances of women in the private sphere, in the public sphere, public patriarchy operates with the aim of curtailing the life chances of women. Whilst a positivist intervention into understanding of women in leadership roles would be interested in ensuring that women do not make it to the top position, it is the feminist standpoint that acts as a fulcrum in revealing the streams, disposition and sources of inequality, stratification and discrimination that inhibits women from switching to leadership roles (Young, 2013). Feminist scholars have identified that the constraints faced by women in taking up leadership roles can be attributed to the societal expectations of women being ideal wives and mothers. Such notions of femininity pose pressure on women to succeed in their conjugal and maternal duties and therefore, reject any other role that might interfere with these roles.

Women also face the challenge of performing double day labor. Due to this, women often find it difficult to manage the responsibilities of the private sphere along with the professional challenges in the public domain of the corporate life. Apart from these, the underrepresentation of women in the leadership roles can be attributed to the discourse about femininity (Cook & Glass, 2014). Women are viewed as weak, meek and subordinate. The notions about femininity are in juxtaposition with the aggression, grit, and competence that is associated with the corporate life and leadership roles. Encouraging women in leadership would be useful in improving the aggression that is associated with the corporate life. Leveling the number of women in a leadership position would set an example for aspiring women to make it to the leadership roles and gain confidence in carrying the responsibility of managing a company with alacrity (Witz, 2013). Incorporation of more female leaders would to these women integrating the qualities of collaborative skills, transformational leadership and a conducive working environment for the members of the organization.

Given, the thrust of the research is to understand and explore the experiential reality of women in a leadership position, a phenomenological research design has been created that would be suitable in responding to the research problem. The phenomenological research design would focus on the positive approaches and investigate in what ways the approach has motivated women to attain a leadership position. The phenomenological research expounds on the events, experiences and the occurrences by putting minimum consideration to the physical and the external reality (Creswell, 2009; Smith et al., 2009). The sample population of the research would be selected carefully and purposefully that would put into consideration the expertise of the participant’s and their experience in leadership with the aim of collecting the best experiences from the participants (Jarmon, 2015). Data would be collected from the participants by sending them an email request. This would be done with the view that the participants would be busy and send an email would give them the time to decide on their schedule and at the same time save the cost and time for booking the appointments.

The qualitative nature of the study would be helpful in collecting the data and provide an in-depth and intensive understanding of the phenomenon of the gap in women in the leadership position. The qualitative research methods that would be used in collecting the data are personal intensive interviews, open-ended questionnaires, and observations. The open-ended questions would allow the participants to implement their knowledge without any hindrance of pre-imposed responses that thwart the articulations of the participants. This would enable the researcher in answering the research questions and therefore, meet the research objectives.

The research population of the study would be successful women in the higher education and leadership position and ascertain the multiple factors that have created impediments in attaining success. In this context, successful women would be those who have taken up leadership position or have ventured into leadership positions. This study would deploy structured interviews as a mean of collecting the data where the research questions would be predetermined and all the participants would be answering similar questions. The researcher would be preparing a set of questions for the participants to answer through the application of their knowledge and skills. The questions in the interview will be similar to ensure that the results generated from the questions would be similar and consistent thereby aiding the researcher to make valid conclusions. The sample size for the interview would be fifteen to twenty. The secondary data collection would comprise document analysis through websites, published documents and the reports (Patton, 2002).

RQ1 How do women mentorship programs influence women in attaining top leadership positions in the higher education sector?

RQ2. What support do women need to attain successful careers as leaders?

RQ3.  How is the representation of women in higher education leadership positions reflect equality?

RQ4. What are the various factors motivating or limiting women from attaining top leadership positions in higher education?

The challenges that women face from the glass ceiling effect is a problem in all organizations. Despite the progress made in leadership women are still being subjected to unequal conditions with men. This study seeks to analyze the challenges that women face in higher education organizations and the differential treatments that exist. Since these institutions nurture young leaders who are prepared for future leadership roles, the addressing these issues within the career development of students can address the problems that women suffer in the organization. Kezar (2017) suggests that understanding the reasons why there is a difference in representation of women in leadership positions can help institute mechanisms for controlling the barriers and creating better conditions that allow both men and women to thrive in their careers. The study seeks to ensure that all-inclusive strategies are put in place to address inequalities that create barriers for women.

The study seeks to understand the societal norms and beliefs that inhibit the success and career growth of women. Through understanding subordination by men, culture is used as a reference point for women challenges by subjecting them to cultural norms that do not recognize the role of women in the society. According to Klenke (2017) women dominate the labor market and yet they hold fewer leadership roles within organizations which create the question of what structural barriers are holding women and making them lag behind in leadership. Further, the study analyses how the cultural definition of roles makes it difficult for women to blend in male-dominated workplaces. By understanding these differences and the role of the stereotypical assumption of the model of leadership, the study identifies challenges and proposes a mechanism that can be put in place to address these challenges (Rosenbach, 2018).

The findings of the study focus more on the higher education institutions in the United States with an average of 60% master's degree graduates being females. However, they hold only 25% of all the leadership positions (Deborah, 2016; Dunn et. al. 2014). The role that academic institutions play in meeting the needs of women becomes challenging since the institutions are not nurturing the right women to men ratios. The role of this study, therefore, is to understand why higher education institutions have higher levels of male dominance and the role that this variation has on the leadership development of women.

Therefore, by researching on women leadership, this study highlights the challenges that women face in career progression and the reasons why women work in fewer leadership roles and take more subordinate roles. These findings can be generalized to other organization thus creating an understanding of the challenges that women face in their quest for leadership roles. These challenges can be the basis for future research and strategies for addressing these variations. Since higher education institutions play a major role in the leadership development of young scholars. They can form the best ground for addressing leadership challenges that women face and how they can be addressed. By proposing the right environment for shaping the leadership role in women, this study is relevant in addressing leadership challenges that women face in the organization.

Term 1: Leadership

  • Leadership can be defined as the action or the ability to lead a team or a group of people, sometimes an organization as well (Daniel, 2018).

Term 2: Leadership Position

  • The term leadership position can be defined as any assigned role or responsibility where a person is responsible for the net result of the entire team (Xie, Yu & Bradshaw, 2014).

Term 3: Underrepresentation

  • Underrepresentation refers to the insufficiently low representation of something or someone (Epstein & Heizler, 2018).
  • Mobility can be defined as the quality, ability or the state of moving or to moved easily and freely (Huelser & Heal, 2014).

Term 5: Invisibilization

  • The term invisibilization refers to the discursive action of making a particular thing invisible (Herzog, 2018).

 Hence, from the above definition of each of the mentioned key terms, it can be stated that leadership is the potential of a person for leading and managing a group or people in a proper way. The leadership Position is the assigned or the allocated role and responsibilities given to the person who is likely to be responsible for the overall result of the whole team. Furthermore, underrepresentation is the insufficiently low representation of a living or non-living thing and mobility is the ability of a person or thing to move or to get moved easily and in a free manner. Lastly, Invisibilization is that discursive action of a person that makes him transform a specific thing into invisible.


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