for Women in Higher Education Administration
our grandmothers, most women currently in administrative roles were
reared with a social message that 'you can do anything you
want.' While that message has brought many exciting opportunities,
many women have found that the unpredictable challenges can outweigh
the opportunity. This is particularly true if one is 'the first
woman' or 'the only woman' in a particularly role.
Therefore, it becomes essential that women in administration be
active mentors to others in our community.
are painfully aware of the impact of gender in positions of power.
Even though most administrators (both men and women) are aware of
the pitfalls in gender labeling, there are many examples of differences.
For instance, a strong assertive male leader is respectfully known
as the 'boss,' a woman with those same traits may be described
with an altogether different label. Additionally, a man might be
seen as goal directed, a woman as pushy; a man is described as passionate,
a woman as over-emotional; a man is seen as a shrewd negotiator,
a woman as conniving.
Among the challenges often mentioned for the woman administrator
(particularly a novice), we might include:
- understanding the unwritten 'rules'
of the academic/campus culture
- developing her communication skills
- learning to use power and advocate for
- grasping budget information and financial
consequences of decisions.
are additional dilemmas that particularly complicate roles for women
- Balancing work and family. While family
responsibilities influence the careers of all parents, women (particularly
those with newborns and preschoolers) may have disproportionate
work in care of children/home.
- Taking work too seriously. Depending
on personal style, this tendency may create problems for anyone.
But it is possible that criticism directed at a woman leader may
take a more personal tone than that for a man.
- Difficulty finding a mentor. Particularly
at the beginning of a new assignment, the administrator needs
the guidance of a seasoned role model. Volumes have been written
and spoken on the necessity of mentoring. We have all seen examples
in which the lack of an appropriate mentor has had significant
- Too little representation of women
in administrative ranks. Depending upon the role and institution,
a woman administrator may be one of such a small group that all
her actions are scrutinized more than those of her male colleagues.
In these cases a woman in administration may have no trusted person
in whom to confide for the purpose of venting frustration.
Women in administration must seek out resources in a paradoxical
environment. Trained in an academic discipline, our first natural
inclination would be to learn by researching the topic. But there
is a problem. While there is a wealth of leadership literature with
parts tailored to women, there are few sources that address these
issues for women in higher education administration, and virtually
nothing specific to academic advising.
By focusing on concerns that may be unique to gender, there is no
intent, to oversimplify. Further, there are circumstances in which
many factors like race and ethnicity, religious choice, and sexual
preference may affect the work environment for the administrator.
Whatever the concern, the solutions can be the same. Colleagues
provide these suggestions:
- Write down your personal and professional
priorities. Review these periodically to remind yourself of what
is truly important.
- Be diligent finding mentor(s). Don't
limit your search only to someone like yourself or only to others
in your field. Identify one or two trusted confidants on your
campus (who may or may not be personal friends) that can serve
as a sounding board.
- Hook into a network for advice
beyond your campus. In developing your network consider the resources
NACADA makes available to support those who share our core values
and common goals. These include:
- Presentations and workshops at national
and regional meetings, as well as state drive-in conferences.
These provide a chance to share information, build self-confidence
and find rejuvenation.
- The Winter Institute for Advising Administrators
- Contacts made through sessions at
the Summer Institute
- Conversations within the NACADA
Advising Administrators Commission and list serve that provide
opportunities for administrators to link for networking and
resource suggestions. Consider joining the commission list serve
- click here
- Explore opportunities available through
organizations, such as Leadership America, that are devoted to
enhancing the knowledge base and confidence of its women members.
Additionally check out training programs offered through graduate
schools of higher education as well as one-on-one skill development
sessions with independent consultants, although this option can
be expensive but quite helpful.
To specifically assist women advising administrators in finding
more information and guidance, we are developing a list of helpful
leadership literature from both the popular press and scholarly
references. The beginnings of this list is available on the NACADA
web site through a link in the posting of this article within
the Advising Resources of the Clearinghouse for Academic Advising.
We need women administrators to suggest materials that have been
useful in addressing these concerns. Send reference information
Understanding the needs of advising administrators is multifaceted.
While the challenges faced by women administrators can be unique,
the methods of addressing these challenges aren't. Exploring a variety
of support opportunities can help all administrators find workable
Alice G. Reinarz
Retired Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies
Texas A&M University
Alice Reinarz is a past chair of the NACADA Advising Administrators
Commission. Reach her at email@example.com
Read More about it! Bibliography of resources for women in administration
AAUW Research Report. Gaining a Foothold: Women’s Transitions Through Work and College. (1999).
- Order from www.aauw.org. This report examines how and why women make changes in their lives through education. The study explores the motivations, obstacles, and support mechanisms that affect their critical decisions and compares them to the same factors as they affect men. The book provides women a context to examine their own educational and career choices through the lens of influences common among women.
Adams, Scott. Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel. Harper Business (2002).
- This resource helps any administrator with one of the most essential of all administrative skills—retaining one’s sense of humor.
Advancing Women in Business—The Catalyst Guide: Best Practices from the Corporate Leaders. Jossey-Bass Business and Management Series (1998).
- This reference draws on best practices of many companies to describe obstacles that stand in the way of female career advancement and how to remove them. Although information is drawn from the experience of women in the business arena, there are strategies relevant to women in education as well.
Bolman, Lee G. and Terrence E. Deal. Reframing Organizations (second edition). Jossey-Bass; San Francisco (1997).
- This book is written for managers. It describes theory and practice about organizations and leadership. It provides a framework to consider the opportunities and pitfalls in any organization. Although somewhat research-oriented in tone, the book has practical elements and the reader can certainly pick and choose among topics.
Duderstadt, James J. A University for the 21st Century. University of Michigan Press: Ann Arbor (2000).
- For any administrator, Duderstadt provides a comprehensive analysis of challenges and opportunities facing higher education in America. Spanning topics from resources to diversity to technology, this book provides perspective for administrative decisions. A former president of the University of Michigan, the author gives context for academic choices in the rapidly paced changing environment of the 21st century.
Kegan, Robert and Lisa Laskow Lahey. How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco (2001).
- These authors help all readers understand the gap between their intentions and their accomplishments (including career decisions). The book describes “languages” to implement life transformation with permanent, not transient, changes.
Morrison, Ann M. The New Leaders. Leadership Diversity in America. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco (1992).
- This book uses interviews with managers in private and public organizations to present a plan for helping them incorporate more women and men of color into leadership roles. Morrison is the author who brought the term “glass ceiling” into our vernacular, and she helps readers understand the organizational advantage of diversity with practical strategies to achieve it.
Lipman-Blumen, Jean. “Connective Leadership: Female Leadership Styles in the 21st Century Workplace” www.connectiveleadership.com/article_female.asp
- This paper describes a “connective leadership” model that combines the traditional masculine ego-ideal with additional female role behaviors more appropriate for an interdependent workplace. Achieving styles are described as the characteristic behaviors that individuals use to achieve their goals. Gender differences in achieving styles are reported and related to the connective leadership model.
American Association for University Women
1111 Sixteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
- A national organization open to all women with a bachelor’s degree. Annual dues. Provides resource information by web and print.
3005 Maple Avenue, Suite 605
Dallas, TX 75201
- A not-for-profit organization for women in all professional roles. Membership selection annually. Members and alums from all states in the USA. Connected with leadership organizations for women in many of the states. Provides professional skill building and networking.
this resource using APA style as:
Reinarz, A. G. (2002,
December).Issues for women in higher education
administration. The Academic Advising News, 25(4).
Retrieved -insert today's date- from the NACADA Clearinghouse
of Academic Advising Resources Web site: