Conference 2012

Conference 2012

FFNT Conference Gender in Academic Leadership

Key-note Summary

Dr. Anne Flierman, President of the Executive Board of the UT opened the conference by pointing out that gender diversity is a business case for the UT. And although the UT doubled the number of women in the top in the past three years, he is aware that there is still a long way to go, because the percentage at the moment only amounts to 11%.

The four key-note speakers of the FFNT Conference were academic leaders, members of the executive or supervisory boards of universities.

Prof. Rosemary Deem, Vice Principal, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

In an extensive literature overview, illustrated with some personal experiences, Prof. Deem showed that female leadership in higher education encounters quite some challenges. Gender bias starts at the recruitment and selection process and goes on throughout the careers of female academics. The first step to overcome this bias is recognizing that it exists, which is difficult in many universities.

Here are some examples of gender bias mentioned in the research overview:

-Assuming lack of ambition if a CV shows some career interruptions

-Men and women are judged differently, even if they behave the same

-Assuming lack of competence if a person is modest or lacks self-promotion

-Expectation of females to be too emotional and not recognizing the emotions of men

-‘Similar to me’ effect in recruitment excludes females if recruiters are dominantly men

-Research tends to be higher valued in academia, while women tend to be overrepresented in education

-Organizational cultures at universities (competiveness without cooperation, long working hours) are excluding women

Prof. Janka Stoker, Vice-Dean, University of Groningen

Prof. Stoker presented two different studies on gender and leadership styles. A meta-analysis of 45 studies on leadership styles of men and women and a survey with 3200 highly educated participants (readers of Intermediair). Stereotypes are quite persistent, among males and females.

The financial crisis seems to strengthen the need for leadership that was at the root of this crisis – the masculine type.

1.The transformational leadership style is correlated with successful leadership (women exhibit it more). Laissez-faire leadership is unproductive in all circumstances (men exhibit it more).

2.Male and female leaders equally use either the feminine or the masculine style.

3.But in the undifferentiated style we find more male leaders and females are more using the androgynous style. When asked about the value of each style the survey participants rate the androgynous leadership style as most effective.

4.Thus, female leaders get high grades, not because of their femininity, but they seem able to combine both masculine and feminine characteristics, which makes them effective.

5.This same study explains why there are still so few female leaders. When asked about the ideal leader, the respondents tend to describe them with masculine characteristics. This tendency is even stronger for males in top positions.

6.Thus there is a strong gap between:

-Actual experiences of people when assessing/rating their own leader, and

-Their description of an ideal leader

Prof. Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Rector of Univesity of Leiden

Prof. Buitendijk stated that the two most common explanations for the lack of women at the top leadership positions:

-There are not enough women

-Women do not have the ambition to be at the top

Research shows that the opposite proves to be the case: Women in academia are equally intelligent, capable and ambitious as men. They may be a bit more careful in expressing their ambition.

There is only one reason for explaining the lack of women at the top:

1.Gender discrimination exists in our everyday practice.

-Society continually stimulates gender differences. At birth differences between men and women are small, but due to education they get larger.

-Women do not learn to compete. In competitive environments like universities they underperform. So university leaders have to learn to recognize female talent.

-The emphasis on meritocracy in universities creates the illusion of measuring quality by objective criteria.

Prof. Curt Rice, Vice-Rector of University of Tromso, Norway

The University of Tromso (UT) in 10 years’ time achieved an increase in female professors from 9% to 30%. The following measures helped to reach this:

-Clearly stated goals at the university level and at a department level. Every department leader was asked on a yearly basis about the planned actions to increase the number of women.

-Creating special programs for targeted groups was very important. UT Promotion project was aimed at the female associate professors. In 2003 40% of the associate professors were female, so a large potential for full professor positions. 45 stated they want a promotion, they received training to prepare themselves for the promotion track and they could apply for funding to close gaps in their CV. Their supervisors and deans were involved in this process by creating the conditions for successful promotion, like transparency and adequate feedback. Another initiative was the Growth project directed at PhD students and postdocs

-The presence of affirmative action (f.i. the Promotion project) improved the overall quality of the candidates for the whole university. Probably because the university became a better workplace for everybody.

-Incentives by the Norwegian government for good practice helped for legitimacy.

-Committed financing - yearly budget of € 500.000

-Commitment of the top: the vice rector himself initiated all the projects and talked to all candidates.

-National culture supports gender equality in Norway

All presentations can be are found on the FFNT website: 2012