Women in Leadership in Higher Education


The number of women attending universities and those contending for leadership positions have been on the increase over the years. Chin (2007) notes that women have taken up positions that were once conserved for men. Published reports confirm that high level appointments for opportunities in higher education are now favoring women because more women are advancing their studies and therefore better positioned to take up such jobs. The open door for women as leaders in higher education is vital since because shows that the society believes in the potential of women to bring about economic and political change. The problem under discussion herein is that genderization of educational leadership has not been fully accepted by most societies. To understand the issues surrounding this problem, we should assess the impact of women leaders in the academic circles or make an in depth inquiry into the women leadership and how the society reacts to it.

Assessing the impact of women leaders

Senior academic leaders who are women continue to face direct and indirect discrimination albeit the efforts of governments and non-governmental organizations to advocate for fair treatment of all regardless of gender. The higher education sector remains a very hostile working environment for women but despite this, the numbers of women leaders in this field are likely to increase. DiGeorgio-Lutz (2002) confirms that women leaders in higher education display effective leadership skills than their male counterparts. Women administrators have been advocating for more job opportunities for women academicians and admission of women students in colleges and universities.

Productivity in the higher educational sector at all levels needs to observe gender parity. Studies which have been conducted shows that there is a direct relationship between higher productivity and higher gender equality in leadership at higher levels of education. The opposite is true, lower gender equity in leadership is associated with gender inequity. This indicates that women also play an important role in the productivity process. Women leaders have proved that they can undertake leadership roles effectively. Students in higher institutions of learning who are sensitive to gender equality benefit from good leadership which is improved by the fact that issues are handled from different perspectives and experiences. According to Nidiffer and Bashaw (2001), time has come for the society to embrace women leadership since it is clear that some women leaders carry out their tasks better than male leaders. Most institutions led by women may have strict rules or be too hands-on but the bottom line is that success is guaranteed in most organizations.

In his book Chin (2007), outlines the challenges that senior academic women leaders face. He explores these barriers critically and confirms that women are slowly overcoming these barriers. Social-cultural stereotyping is a major bottleneck to women leadership in the social strata. The society views women leaders as less experienced and this has made many students aspiring to advance their studies to prefer male-led organizations because of such uninformed socialization. Discrimination and prejudice directed towards women leaders are universal (Lawrence, 2006). This weakens the efforts of individuals and groups who are committed towards advocating for equal management prospect for both genders in higher education. Feminists and the bill of human rights bear positive results in mitigating these stereotypes.

Culture is also a big problem affecting women leadership in higher levels of learning. Most cultures are hard hit by discrimination because many men hold on to traditional beliefs. According to Nidiffer and Bashaw (2001), some cultures do not allow women to make major decisions. These cultures have institutionalized myths on the possible consequences that may result if women are fully in charge. These particular individuals who are die hard custodians of culture. Today, the number of women heading higher institutions of learning has increased. Some women have taken up those positions and have men as their deputies. This has had a positive impact in overall management since this is an indication that leaders are chosen based on how well they can lead but not according to their genders.

Inquiring into the women leadership and how the society reacts to it

Given a chance, most women can lead higher learning institutions better. They tend to have the zeal to make the society better. This does not however mean that male leaders lack the zeal; it is the degree of zeal that differs. This is because women have not had a chance to lead to fears hence the chance is well utilized if it presents itself. There is also a notion that it may take some time before a woman is nominated to lead the organization.

In inquiring into this issue, questionnaires and interviews can be effective ways of investigating the impact of women leadership in higher levels of learning. This will present a clear picture of what all stakeholders in education think about women led institutions. The research should focus on questions like:

  1. Is the school leader a he or a she?
  2. If it is a she, how is the leadership style? Is it satisfactory?
  3. Would you prefer a male leader to a female one? If so, why?
  4. Compare male and female leaders in terms of skills, which group is more skilled?
  5. Is gender equality in leadership important? Account for your answer.

The above questions will single out the issues that surround women leadership in higher institutions of learning.


Women leadership in higher education faces many challenges. While some agree that women can also be good leaders, many believe that women do not fit to be in leadership positions. To have a good picture of the views that people hold over these leaders, it would be important to interview university students, those women who are already leaders, educational agencies, the government, guardians and other interest groups on their views on women leadership.


Chin, J. L. (2007). Women and Leadership: Transforming Visions and Diverse Voices. MA: McMillan.

DiGeorgio-Lutz, J. (2002). Women in Higher Education: Empowering Change. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Lawrence, F. L. (2006). Leadership in Higher Education: Views from the Presidency. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

Nidiffer, J. & Bashaw, C. T. (2001). Women Administrators in Higher Education. New York: SUNY Press.

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