Differences between Males and Females in Academic Leadership



The paper focuses on differences in academic leadership between male and female representatives. Current study is based on empirical data provided by the answers of staff members on the effectiveness of male and female deans. Despite the fact that the number of male deans was almost two and a half times higher (20 male and 8 female deans), it has been observed that responses of faculty and staff members were more in favor of female deans. The vast majority out of 200 respondents evaluated that female deans are more effective in all criteria designed as the framework for current study.

Differences between Males and Females in Academic Leadership


There have been numerous studies completed in an attempt to answer Kets de Vre question addressing factors that determine who will become a leader (1993). With more females rising through the middle level positions in academic leaderships, searches to answer this question have shifted to academic dimension. The increasing role of females with regards to leadership is explained by the new requirements for modern working place which is heavily dependent on teamwork and relationship building (Pounder and Coleman, 2002). Differences between the performance of males and females in academic environment has become subject to numerous studies. In this increasing body of research work, studies (for instance, Oplatka & Beer-Sheeva, 2006) indicate that females outnumber males in academic sector but leadership predominantly belongs to males. These differences occur also in leadership style, quality of service delivery, and priorities. Numerous studies have indicated that men do not work as academic leaders in similar ways to women (for instance, Christman & McClellan, 2012). These studies contend that the two behave differently in the same leadership environment and situations. Large variety of studies on the topic utilize different methodology and range from systematic reviews and simple analysis to cross-disciplinary (psychology, sociology, education, and business) and empirical surveys.

Literature Review

Bown (1999) and Eeyoung, and DOO-SEUNG (2013) report there is no definite difference in the styles of leadership that men and women perform. As a result of continued research in groups that are comprised of both men and women, the androgynous style of leadership has proved to be the best when a climate of innovation needs be created. On the other hand, Eagly & Johnson (1990) observed that the main rationale for differences in leadership styles between males and females derives from cultural stereotypes, socialization, gender bias and behavioral tendencies.

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Despite the fact that men still occupy the majority of leadership positions in academic sphere, recent study by Cuadrado et al. (2012) implied that this is rather because of artificial barriers and social prejudices than the level of qualification or leadership style. As a matter of prudence, the study found that there is hardly any difference between males and females in leadership styles. Out of ten tested leadership styles, Cuadrado et al. found that only two differ. Therefore, the predominant number of male representatives in leadership positions in academic sector is explained by the socialization and social perception of traditional role of females. For instance, Levin and Young (1994) investigate how workload expectations for academic leaders and parenting expectations for female representatives exclude each other resulting in the fact that fewer females are willing to apply for academic leadership positions. Another study by Harris et al. (2004) revealed that patriarchal society very often does not accept shift of women out of their traditional role as mothers and housemaids to academic leaders. The same study also found controversial data that because of womens central role in managing households and raising children their leadership skills are better developed.

The glass ceiling is a concept that has been used to refer to the women lack of advancement into the leadership position even in a situation with no visible barriers. A broad observation has shown that despite the fact that women over the years have struggled to enter into many academic fields which were previously occupied by men, they still remain virtually non-existent in the elite leadership positions (Oplatka & Beer-Sheeva, 2006). In psychology, from the 1980s, women have shown to dominate the area and proved to be heroes in the sector. This has outweighed the position of men taking part in the psychology career. Men tend to shine more in the science profession and thus the leadership in the profession is most granted to the male.

The faculty in charge for granting the leadership positions to students normally has few perceptions that relate to what positions should be granted to the two genders. Dominating perception has been that the male should occupy most of the positions as they have the authoritative feature while women should occupy few positions that should be accompanied by close supervision. The disparity is also evident when it comes to the ranks offered. Most of the subordinate leaders are female and thus not much consideration is taken in respect to their ideas that are to be used in decision making. Current statistics is based on present and future performance of women when it comes to their advancement in their career (Harris, et al., 2004 ). The major disparity is evident in the continued holding of the leadership positions that are held by women. They tend to perform better in their few given positions and have for the history proved to be better leaders than men in the academic sector.

Bown (1999), Christman & McClellan (2012), Hysom, (2006), Ismail and Rasdi (2008), indicate one of the limitations of current research on the women organizations that are organized in schools usually leave no room for the male students to occupy the leadership positions. From researches, it evident that the major disparity starts with the choice of subjects that the male students and the female students are willing to pursue in the university colleges. Normally, women have shown a lot of interest in pursuing languages and art while men prefer taking technical courses. Therefore, the expected population will vary due to the mentioned difference in taste of career choices. In a school organization that has few of the technical courses, the female will definitely dominate in the leadership position, and the opposite is also correct.

There has been the discovery of the reason for the widespread problem that involves women underrepresentation in the world of academics. Despite the gender based obstacles that involve lower ranks, reduced recognition among others, the women in academics normally have issues with the balance of school life and outside life. Timetables that are meant for tenure decisions normally collide with the optimal years that are meant for childbearing. This requires the women to have the ability to resolve the conflicts that are between the career blocs and the biological blocs. The administrative positions normally have well defined hierarchy together with progressive ranks (Leithwood, 1999, Oplatka & Beer-Sheeva, 2006).

It has been observed (Oplatka & Beer-Sheeva, 2006) that in the participants ratio, women are less considered for recruitment in the beginning of the administrative ranks and thus few women have the opportunity to rise above these ranks sequentially. The majority of the paths that available for leadership often involve the directing of the academic programs, being chairpersons of the committees and other related positions. Usually the leadership positions that are well defined seem to be less attractive to women and, therefore have less interest in taking them, and this has increased the number of women in such positions Even in situations that women have the positions as leaders, their roles are usually not well recognized within the institution. Usually women tend to be more excluded from the informal network in the intellectual leadership and, therefore, the decreased access to the right informal networks has led to a reduced mentorship and guidance in respect to the leadership positions (Al-Jenaibi, 2010).

Morley (2000) and Haney (2010) it turned out for the writer that there has been gender based obstacles into attaining leadership skills but normally these obstacles affect more women than men. The various factors that have reduced the development of women careers involve the decreased access to the leadership positions, low recognition in the contribution of leadership and the current norms that are in existence concerning the value of leadership attributes and the available leadership roles. The difference between the leadership between men and women has been accelerated by the fact that the two genders have different abilities and interests. Further, the perception that is based on the difference in gender ability and intelligence has also contributed to this disparity.

This paper explores differences between males and females in academic leadership.



There were chosen 200 participants from the staff and faculty level. The faculty members consisted of instructors, librarians, researchers, and professionals. Staff members consisted of the executive, administrators, professionals, technicians, and clerical workers who were reporting to 30 deans. These faculty deans represented various colleges, schools, and programs.


In order to avoid any gender bias, choice of participants and respondents was based on a random basis. Through the systematic


Plan of Data Analysis

Results Section

Research question: what are differences between males and females in academic leadership?

According to the faculty and staff members responses, female deans showed higher effectiveness on leadership positions. The respondents rated the female deans as the most effective in terms of communication skills and professionalism. Female deans also rated higher than men in interpersonal relationship and the management of their department. What contributed to the classification of males and females deans was sex and being a full professor. Once the perceptions of faculty and staff members about female and male deans were classified, illustrative data of every dean was examined. This is shown on the table below. Means and standard deviations of both female and mean deans in order to help in comprehending the coefficients were provided.

Group 1 (Male Deans)

Group 2 (Female Deans)






Vision and goal setting





Management of the unit





Interpersonal Skills





Quality of education





Professional endeavors





Communication skills





Support of the institutional diversity






Explanation of Findings. Discriminant analysis was used in order to analyze the findings. The findings consisted of a linear combination of variables, which gave maximum differences between the gender variables. In this case, the need was to determine the differences in leadership styles and responsibilities of male and females. These results depended on the domain of leadership and respondents. Direct method of discriminant analysis where all dimensions of leadership were simultaneously included into the analysis was used. The results of the research show that the combination of leadership aspects and demographic behaviors of the respondents contributed to the classification of male and female academic leaders. Demographic variables such as sex of the respondent and a full professor rank influenced the perception of the respondents about the effective leadership between males and females. These variables influenced the respondents predictions about the leadership ability of these deans.

Limitations. The most significant limitation of the study was the number of sample population (only 28 deans were included). Furthermore, responses of staff members may not be fully objective as their opinion about particular dean may be based on personal feelings or emotions, such as sympathy, hatred and so on. In addition, it is assumed that some of respondents may answer in favor of certain deans because of male/female solidarity.

However, the main limitation of this analysis is that it is difficult to establish whether the predictions are positive or negative.


Future Research. Gender aspect of studying academic leadership has turned out very perspective. Since the study has revealed empirical data on the ration of academic leadership of males and females it is necessary to discover main reasons that have led to such results. More specifically, because during this research it was noticed that many studies concentrate on socialization as one of the key reasons that determine leadership, further research may be directed to include sociological aspect. Another point that may be of significant value for further research is psychological footing that is typical of leaders. Also, because the study is limited only to one university it might be a good idea to broaden the population size and scope of the study to other universities.

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