Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Much of the research within the field of Leadership Studies focuses on whether men and women lead differently and whether women can break "the glass ceiling." This study will examine women leaders in higher education administration who have children and have already broken the glass ceiling, focusing on their work-life challenges and analyzing the structural and attitudinal issues in their organization and society that impact their leadership.
Virginia Schein (1995) identified the larger challenge for society by asking,
How can we restructure work in a society in which work and family no longer are separate, but interface?...It is when this question comes into play that the possibility emerges that women would lead differently (165).
Women would lead differently because they would focus on structural and attitudinal changes to facilitate the interface of work and family. This priority would encourage a work climate in which the work-life interface was recognized and accommodated, and its reality was not denied.
The implication of Schein's comments is that the work-life concerns in contemporary society are structural and attitudinal issues for organizational and political leaders as well as spouses to champion, not the sole responsibility of individual women. If work-life issues were supported, attitudinal and structural changes would be made to support the belief that women should have jobs and fathers should be involved in the care of their children (Bailyn, 1998).
One way to guide such change is to amass information on what is currently occurring (Bailyn, 1998). Consequently, this study explores the issues that current women face when they combine a leadership position in higher education administration with raising a family. It examines the decisions that women in these leadership roles made about work and family at various stages in their lives and examines the work-life conditions that support or inhibit their functioning in these roles.
This study also explores the major four types of work-life negotiation in which women leaders with children engage: negotiation with the organization, negotiation with society/public policy, negotiation with spouse/family and negotiation of roles and responsibilities. This study coins the term "work-life negotiation," as opposed to using the traditional term, "work-life balance" that inaccurately suggests a 50/50 equilibrium between work and family. Finally, this study examines the styles of leadership women use to negotiate work-life issues.
The need for our society to understand work-life negotiation experiences of women becomes urgent as the numbers of women in the workforce, and within higher education administration specifically, continue to increase. While research in work-life negotiation is needed in all fields, the field of higher education is important to investigate because little research exists about how working mothers live within the higher education community. Most research about work-life negotiation has occurred in the corporate sector. Attention must be given to work-life issues to improve retention and ameliorate the quality of life for women who aspire to become women leaders in higher education administration.
Williamson, Anne Simmons, "Women leaders combining a career in higher education with raising a family : a study of leadership" (2004). Honors Theses. 1283.