Women presidents of American four-year colleges and universities: an analysis of reported changeable attributes contributing to their success.
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Darden, Mary Landon.
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Women are grossly under-represented in academic presidencies in the United States, with only 20% of all higher education presidencies, and just 13% at doctorate-granting institutions (The American College President, 2002). The most significant study of the last century on women in leadership roles is Astin and Leland’s (1999) Women of Influence, Women of Vision. Women Presidents in American Four-Year Colleges and Universities expands on Astin and Leland’s findings by determining and analyzing the influential characteristics, later identified as specific "changeable attributes," that contribute to the success of women higher education presidents. This study seeks to provide information to assist more women higher education administrators achieve success, advance in their profession and, ultimately, achieve a more representative proportion of presidential positions. A preliminary conceptual framework and 21-question interview were designed to elicit changeable attributes that contributed to the success of 18 women presidents from top four-year colleges and universities (as ranked by U.S. News and World Report) The findings conclude with 15 reported changeable attribute categories and 14 recommendations for women administrators, prioritized and described in detail. The first changeable attribute category, Leadership Traits and Characteristics Important to Success in the Presidency, highlights 87 traits that enhance leadership. The 15 categories also include: The Willingness and Courage to Take Risks and Make Necessary Career Changes; Obtaining the Necessary Experience to Prepare, Qualify and Succeed in the Presidency; Seeking Mentors and Positive Influencers; and Developing and Implementing an Effective Leadership Style. The final Changeable Attributes Model illustrates how these changeable attributes may influence levels of success for women higher education administrators. Some factors remain constant: There are still too few women in academic leadership roles and those who are make less money and have shorter tenures than their male counterparts. Thus, the programming designed to identify, develop, advance, and support emerging female leaders continues to be crucial (American Council on Education, 2003, p. 16). Women Presidents in American Four-Year Colleges and Universities presents a detailed "formula for success" for women administrators and future presidents.