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ERIC Number: ED518012
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 137
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1240-8131-1
Access Granted: First Female Presidents, Leadership Style, and Institutional Culture
Milligan, Michelle Lynne
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania
College and university presidents are the public face of not only their institution but also of higher education in general. Internal and external audiences alike turn to the president for leadership, inspiration, and action. While the gender demographics of student and faculty groups in higher education have become more equal, gender parity at the presidential level is not yet realized. About one in five American college presidents are women; at private colleges and universities, the percentage is even lower. This dissertation explores the phenomenon of female presidents currently serving at select liberal arts colleges and doctorate-granting institutions. Issues of leadership style, institutional culture, and gender were discussed in face-to-face interviews with the president (all but two of whom are her respective institution's first female president) and reviewed through speeches or articles by and about the president. This focused study of 12 female presidents of top-ranked institutions adds to the body of scholarship by helping researchers understand the experience of this group of under-represented leaders. Research revealed a number of similarities in pre-presidential experiences, most notably supportive families; high academic and professional achievement (terminal degrees and full-professor status); familiarity being the minority in terms of gender; and the importance of others' encouragement to pursue leadership. The women presidents expressed a preference for leadership characterized by openness, collaboration, and confidence. The specific experience of being a female president offered comments concerning an expected leadership style based on gender, a perception that women presidents face higher expectations, and a sense that presidential positions are unattractive. Finally, "fit" with an institution's culture affects presidential effectiveness, leading some women to discuss the utility of adapting leadership to better suit an institution's particular culture. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A