january2011_june 2011

january2011_june 2011

Assimilation, authenticity, and advancement.

Crafting integrated identities as academic leaders

Diane Dean, Susan Bracken, Jeanie Allen in Women in Academic Leadership, 2009

Academia propagates and rewards behaviours that are masculine: competition, excelling, individualism, transactional relationships.

An assimilation imperative exists when one works and belongs to an organisation. In order to gain legitimacy as a leader you have to adopt the existing culture. This is what can be observed about the few women who are at the top in academia. This assimilation has a cost. Assimilation in professional life combined with authenticity in private life does not feel good, because it causes:

-Work life imbalance:

oLow valuation of the private sphere inhibits integration of the private and public sphere. In private life women are expected to be caring which contradicts with their public role, where they are expected to be competitive.

oWomen take care of the greatest part of caring responsibilities. This gives them less time for work related activities. There is no sense of elasticity.

oSociety does not approve of women who work hard for professional fulfilment.

-Inconsistent expectations:

oBeing male gives men a boost, they are perceived as fulfilling academic leadership.

oNurturing roles in private life contrast with the competitive climate in daily work.

oBeing female contradicts leadership expectations; females have to prove they belong over and over again.

oLegitimacy is also hindered because of the small margin women have, to act as a leader: not too tough, because women are expected to care about others, but not too caring, because that does not fit the leadership image.

-Inequitable rewards:

oSalary, resources, support, promotions are less for women in academia then for men.

Because of these three structural causes, there are also costs on the psychological level, such as:

-An imposter syndrome: Women, more then men, suffer from this, probably because of childhood conditioning (sex-roles stereotypes). Even highly successful women recognize this.

oErroneous believes of inadequacy

oInability to internalize accomplishments, success is attributed to external causes

oInaccurate self-perceptions of fraudulency

oFear of exposure

oInequitable rewards and inconsistent expectations foster this.

-Diminished Self-Efficacy (one’s sense of agency, a catalyst for leadership):

oImposter syndrome leads to diminished self-efficacy, another factor is that lack of results (inequitable rewards) lead to diminished self efficacy.

-Inauthenticity: In order to be a leader, masculine leadership is expected, but it contradicts the styles women feel comfortable with, for instance playing political games in order to win, or having to separate public and private life.

The result is gender dissonance: the individual behaviour or thoughts conflict with the established behaviour or thoughts. The multiple facets of ones personality are fading in the light of assimilation, creating an incomplete inauthentic self.

How to diminish this gender dissonance?

1. Structural changes:

-Working conditions:

ocreate family friendly policies and behaviour

oassure equitable rewards (salary, promotion, tenure, resources)

otransparency in promotion processes.

2. Cognitive changes

Acquiring new beliefs and information that support one’s sense of self. The imposter syndrome and diminished self-efficacy are governed by self-perceptions that are fuelled by misinformation coming from the organizational structure. Women’s ambitions, self-efficacy and sense of accomplishment have been diminished by a pervasive and accumulated lack of recognition for their accomplishments.

This has to be done at the structural level as pointed above, but also at an individual level:

- Women seek development opportunities (mentoring) and networks for their support

- Managers recognize their female workers and give feedback on their functioning.

3. Affective changes

Change how we think about differences between masculine and feminine behaviours. Value equally different aspects of leadership behaviour. So upgrade behaviours like participation, power sharing and relationship and put less emphasis on individualism, competition. Define leadership as a combination of various competencies.


Quality in science:

-The definition about quality is subjective. It helps if you make the criteria transparent, because that forces to be explicit about your definition.

-We do not want a one-size-fits-all definition, because of the differences between groups.

-It is not what you wrote (content) but where you managed to publish

What strategy helps me to be part of my team?

-Follow the tradition: be one of the boys by talking about gadgets and football.

-Try to change, this causes a lot of resistance in the team.

-Come in and make small changes by challenging existing practices now and then.

Participation of women in committees:

-Risk of overload: as a women you are asked for every possible committee

-Token position: risk of stereotyping and not being taking seriously

-Chance of getting many capable women into commissions, but beware that you are participating as a specialist on your subject and not only because of your gender.