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Women and leadership in academia

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Leadership style

Women who reach positions of authority often have a different leadership style. Priola (2004) reports on research she did at the UK's University of Wolverhampton Business School, where a high percentage of women held managerial positions (the dean, two associate deans, and several heads of departments). She carried out qualitative interviews with these managers, finding that women identified with "feminine" skills and qualities: multitasking, people and communication skills, support and care for the staff, and a team-based rather than authoritarian approach.

Özkanlı and White (2008) reported that the women in their study showed a style that was "transformational" rather than "transactional". A transformational leader is concerned about, and enables, others, is accessible, encourages questioning, values a learning environment and self-development, has integrity, and believes in building a shared vision and developing those around her.

Zulu (2007) also observes the transformational style in her study, but she also refers to the concept of self-sacrifice: women leaders have a "positive attitude to leadership" based on the sacrifice of time and energy for the benefit of others, putting the organization before their own interest in power and encouraging others to do so as well. Their attitude is caring, empathetic, creative, consultative and participatory (Zulu, p. 52).

Rosalind Marsh, however, believes that things are not so simple, and that many women suffer from a "Hera complex" – in other words, in order to survive in a masculine culture, women adopt masculine characteristics.