Gendered Realities and Women's Leadership Development: Participant Voices from Faith-Based Higher Education
AbstractWomen who seek high-level administrative leadership positions in various sectors of higher education continue to meet a variety of barriers (Eagly & Carli, 2007). These challenges are especially evident among the 105-member Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), an association of faith-based liberal arts institutions. Seeking to identify, equip, and encourage more women to enter high-level positions of leadership, in 1998 the CCCU launched a series of year-long leadership programs, each of which began with a five-day Women's Leadership Development Institute (WLDI). During four institutes held between 1998 and 2004, the WLDI involved 71 “emerging leaders” in a multifaceted leadership development program specifically intended for women. Survey responses from 53 of the 71 participants were used to assess which experiences in the one-year WLDI project had been most significant in encouraging and preparing participants for higher-level administrative leadership. Multiple regression analyses indicated that the experiences perceived as most beneficial by the participants were the shadowing/mentoring experience on another campus, the WLDI participation restriction to women, and the informal conversations and networking with other women. The shadowing/mentoring experience had the greatest influence on increasing the participants' confidence in themselves as academic leaders and changing their thinking about their own leadership potential. Participation in a leadership program that was limited to women was frequently cited as a source of encouragement for these participants to remain in Christian higher education. More than half of the survey respondents moved into broader leadership responsibilities within one year of participating in the WLDI.