Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Women Philosophers and Administrative Leadership

When thinking about the gender imbalance in philosophy, I tend to focus on direct support for undergradate students. But it's interesting to look at university leadership, too, as a place where women philosophers can wield influence.

I think the street tends to distrust administrators, and why not? While we deal with theory, they deal with nitty-gritty practices: budget decisions, personnel problems, deciding who gets the corner office. Ugh. Who would want a part of that?

But there are also certain kinds of (pro-woman, pro-family, pro-student, progressive) changes that can best be managed from a dean's, provost's, or president's office. Deans--and other administrators--do have a say on budget, personnel, and space decisions. The faculty may participate in self-governance, but it moves slowly and inefficiently by comparison.

Do the numbers:
  • About 23% of college presidents are women, while about 45% of upper administration more generally is female (not all of those are academic offices).
  • Fewer than 15% of doctorate-granting schools are headed by women.
The analysis could be encapsulated as "same old story," as in this article in Forbes:
Molly Broad, president of the American Council on Education, says the dearth of female college presidents comes down to the hiring process. Since a president is selected by an institution’s board of trustees--women, especially minority women, are virtually absent from most--tips on navigating the interview process and news about job openings tend to stay among the insiders: men.
Some of the reasons to get involved in administration converge with the interests of feminists and of people like us--theorists. This quote is from an article in the journal Women in Leadership:
Women presidents differ greatly in their approaches to leadership. In this report... [most women]...talked about their leadership in terms of their being trusted “to articulate the aspirations of my institution.” One reflected, “I’m almost entirely motivated by the desire to do meaningful and worthwhile work.” One said that she feels less pressure to be right than to “arrive at mutually satisfactory conclusions and decisions.”

Back to philosophy. Who are some current female philosophers in administrative positions? (Add more in comments!)

  • Amy Gutmann, President, University of Pennsylvania
  • Marjorie Hass, President, Austin College (my alma mater)
  • Dorothy Leland, President, Georgia College and State University
  • Cheryl Misak, Interim Vice-President and Provost, University of Toronto
  • Michele Moody-Adams, Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education at Columbia University
  • Onora O'Neill, President of the British Academy (OK, not a university post, but influential nonetheless)
  • Lynn Pasquerella, President, Mount Holyoke College
I know of others who have done a rotation in adminstration—Naomi Scheman, Kathleen Okruhlik—and have had positive things to say about the experience. It's a role that we feminist philosophers could keep in mind as we plan our career goals.


Evelyn Brister said...

Elizabeth Kiss, President, Agnes Scott College

Evelyn Brister said...

I left out former university presidents, but it would be interesting to list those that came up on the SWIP discussion list. These dates are to the best of my knowledge.

Mary Patterson McPherson, President, Bryn Mawr College, 1978 - 1997

Onora O'Neill, Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge University, 1992 - 2006

Joan Straumanis, President, Antioch College, 2002-2004

Mary Warnock, head of Girton College, Cambridge University, 1986-1989

Evelyn Brister said...

Barbara Wall, Special Assistant to the President for Mission Effectiveness, Villanova University

Anonymous said...

Another philosopher: Christine McKinnon, Academic Vice-President and Acting Provost, Trent University.

Anonymous said...

Karen Hanson, Provost, Indiana University

Cynthia Freeland

Sphinxx said...

Our position at sphinxx is that it's time for quotas. Women have been politely taking on board the feedback about the experience, expertise and networking they need to do to get into the top jobs for decades now... to little effect. Macchiavelli said all those years ago that those with the power will never voluntarily give it up. So why would the men who dominate business step aside for women? We know that organisations with more women in leadership roles produce financial results up to 35% stronger - so why don't the shareholders insist in diversity? Because the Institutional Investors are dominated by men at the top who are threatened by the idea of diminishing their power. Organisations have also spent millions on womens programs in the past... again with little result. Targets won't do it; we need quotas like Norway to force the shift. And like Norway, we'll find that there are in fact plenty of women qualified for board and executive positions. And we'll also see that getting more women into leadership roles encourages more women to get there too. www.sphinxx.com.au