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Gender and Leadership

May 22, 2007

In some ways, men who are community college administrators are becoming more like women. And in some ways, women in these positions are becoming more like men -- in leadership styles and certain demographic trends.

Either way, research presented Monday in Austin, Tex., at the annual meeting of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development suggested that the differences between male and female community college administrators are narrowing -- in many cases significantly.

The findings are based on a national survey conducted of community college administrators this year, compared with findings from a similar study in 1985. The study -- on senior administrators, but not including presidents -- was conducted and presented by Steven Jones, president of Amarillo College, and Brad Johnson, vice president and dean of development at Amarillo.

People responding to the survey were asked a series of questions about their leadership styles generally and in certain scenarios. In 1985, women were more consistent than men in style, and by 2007, that gap had disappeared as men became more consistent than they had been previously.

In 1985, women under the age of 45 were significantly less "participative" in management style than were those over 45. Now men and women -- of all ages -- tend to have a "selling" style of leadership, in which they actively seek to lead their teams in certain directions, as opposed to a "participative" style.

Comparing the two studies, women today are much more likely to have a spouse and men are more likely to have a mentor. In 1985, 42 percent of female administrators and 8 percent of male administrators were not married. In 2007, the figure was 23 percent for women and 10 percent for men. In a discussion among those attending the session where the research was presented, several women said that they thought men of earlier generations were not comfortable or willing to support an ambitious spouse (or have one who earned more), and that this is now changing.

When it comes to mentors, a gap is also closing -- for men. In 1985, 85 percent of women had a mentor and 28 percent of men did. In 2007, the percentage for women was largely unchanged, at 84 percent. But for men, the figure jumped to 69 percent.

That men are seeking mentors may bode well for search committees trying to put together pools for presidential searches. For male and female administrators, those with mentors are more likely to aspire to the presidency than those without. So are administrators with doctorates, a group that is increasingly dominated by women, the study found.

Other characteristics appear to make one less likely to aspire to a presidency. Those reporting directly to presidents are less likely than other administrators to want to be presidents, and those working as administrators with longer tenures are less likely to aspire to the top job.

Quipped Jones: "The more you know, the more you don't want to know."

 

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