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Representation of Women in Higher Education Research Paper



The modern woman is no longer the person who was traditionally meant to be mainly involved in domestic activities exclusively. Today’s women have ventured into the professional world and are no longer regarded as people whose work is mainly the domestic chores.

To achieve this, women have developed careers and do all that is required to develop their careers. Moreover, many women have ventured into the world of academia and competed with the men for different positions. To this end, women can now be found in spheres, which were traditionally meant for men eg medicine and engineering.

Women form a large number of students in the undergraduate colleges. They also form a large proportion of students found in tertiary and even postgraduate colleges. Therefore it would seem natural that since the women are the majority of the students enrolling in graduate and postgraduate degrees they should therefore be the one who form a sizeable proportion of the leadership in all the professional fields.

In some fields women form the majority of the leaders in those fields. However, this is not true in the case of higher education. Moreover, despite forming a sizeable population of the members of different institutions of higher learning, few women are usually in position of leadership.

Leadership positions of institutions of higher learning are usually divided into hierarchies whereby, in the lower hierarchies, women are very well represented. However, as one goes to the higher hierarchies, the representation of the women diminishes.

These hierarchies are mainly represented by men. Women are also subjected to biase in their employment selection and consideration for promotion.

However, even when women hold similar positions with the men the women are usually paid less salaries compare to their male compatriots who do the same kind of jobs as the women. Women are also subjected to limited chances to career and professional advancement (Dean, Bracken and Allen, 2008, p 2).

However, despite the fact that women are still underrepresented in the leadership of higher education, there has a great improvement in the number of women on various positions of leadership. Their number continues to increase and it is expected that in the future their number will almost be equal to that of men in leadership positions (Alemán and Renn, 2002, p 3).

Therefore, due to the above situations women need to come up with strategies to help increase their representation and enhance their chances of being elevated to leadership positions. They need to correctly position themselves to benefit from any available opportunities that may crop up.

This will ensure that the women representation in higher education improves and the women can achieve their academic and professional goals (Dean, Bracken and Allen 2008, p2).

The women in the black community are the ones who are most underrepresented in the higher education. They face double discrimination, the fact that they are black and being women. The black women are viewed by the white men as having little or no worth. These women usually immigrate to the countries in order to obtain the higher education.

Therefore, the women find it hard to get assimilated to the society of academia and are usually faced with many barriers to their academic success. They must be culturally assimilated to the society before achieving any meaningful progress.

Even for women who are native assimilation into the world of academia is difficult. Hence these women are faced with much more difficulties in attaining leadership opportunities in the higher education. (Jones, 2005, p 1)

Purpose of this study

This paper attempts to show the different in the number of leadership positions of women who are higher levels of education. In so doing we will mainly be focused on the women’s point of view regarding the subject.

However leadership in institutions of higher learning is just one of the issues on gender equality which need to be addressed. This paper will not deal with the other issues as its main focus is on representation of women in higher education. However this paper does not deal with the other issues of gender equality

The purpose of this study is to determine the factors that may be making the representation of women in higher education to be lower compared to that of men.

This paper will also focus on the reasons for the under representation of women in mostly the prestigious institutions of higher learning. By studying the reasons for the under representation this paper will attempt to come up with different strategies to ensure that the pattern is avoided.

Background of the problem

A brief background of the conditions in America will help understand the reasons for the current under representation. During the beginning of civilization, two factors were mainly considered to bring about change; democratic and political revolution and economic development. In all these changes women were not actively involved, men were the ones who were mostly involved (attached material p 5).

Thus, women were generally considered mainly concerned with the performance activities in the domestic spheres of life, whereas the men were actively involved in the activities, which were of public interests (Alemán and Renn, 2002 p 5).

In those days, the women who chose to follow their academic paths were perceived by the men to be awkward and going against the norms of society, which required that they be relegated to the roles bestowed upon them, by the men.

However, today’s women choose to pursue their career objectives. These women have enrolled in university programs to achieve their desired career objectives so as to effectively compete with the men. There are now more women who are enrolled in higher education than the men (Alemán, and Renn, 2002 p xx).

However, despite the fact there are more women enrolling in university education, the number of women who are in the leadership positions in higher education is still comparatively low. The leadership positions have been mainly the domain of men.

Theoretical framework

There are many methods that can be used to gauge the increase of leadership of women in various positions. The political reforms, which allow the women to become the heads of states, are just one of the methods used to gauge the emergence of women leadership. However, this does not truly reflect the equality of men and women in distribution of leadership position in the spheres of society (Hartman, n.d).

In recent times, there have been so many advocacies for equity of women in all the spheres of society. These initiatives are mostly led by women and seek to empower women economically, politically, academically and health wise. This initiatives help to create equity in all the sectors of society and enable women to reach their leadership potential more easily.

However, even after the creation of equity women still do not occupy leadership in visible spheres of the society. This has made different people to point out that women do not have leadership qualities. This is mot true since have exercised their leadership abilities even before the beginning of civilization.

The leadership of women was mostly concerned with the community and households leadership; hence her leadership was not seen since it was not a leadership position which is highlighted in the public domain. Leadership of women mainly concerned things which relate to domestic issues.

However, modernization has reduced the tendency of women to be relegated to the domestic realms. Women are now having fewer children, marrying late, concentrating more on attaining quality education and moving out of the homes to seek paid jobs. This has made women to lead lifestyles which resemble those of men and hence seek leadership opportunities considered to belong to men.

However, by so doing, the women have sacrificed their roles which were traditionally female such as the tender care which the women give to children and society. However women do not have to sacrifice all that at the expense of being leaders. They can still be leaders and maintain their roles which would be of great benefit not only to the society but also to themselves.

Hence, gender equality should not just be viewed as the ability of women doing things, which were conventionally meant, for men, but their ability to influence the society in their specific way.

Literature Review

Women current form a majority of the undergraduates of colleges in America (57 %), and also form a large percentage of the doctorate degrees awarded in America. However despite these statistics men still continue to dominate the most desirable positions of leadership in the education system.

As one move up the administration ladder, which demands for more responsibility, the number of women in those positions decreases markedly (Gupton 2009 p 3). In these institutions, 58% of the instructors are women, 54% of the lecturers are women, 51% of the women are in the unranked areas and only 23% of the full professors are women.

The data shows that there is a majority representation of women in the lower ranks of the institutions. It also clearly illustrates the misrepresentation of women in the higher positions of leadership in the institutions (Gupton, 2009, p 3).

In the US, the bulk of the full professors, tenured faculty members and high level administrators in the institutions of higher learning are formed by men. However, more and more women are employed in these institutions but for positions, which have lower salaries (Gupton, 2009, p 3).

However, the situation is far much worse for the leadership positions of institutions of higher learning. Only 16% of the university presidents are women. Women form 25 % of the chief academic officers of institutions of higher learning. This situation is also grave in the other professional fields. Among the chief business officers, only 13 % of them are women.

This seems to be ironical since women form a large percentage of the population in both the undergraduate and post graduate schools of higher learning (Chliwniak, 1997 para 1). This is despite the fact that more women are likely to obtain a doctorate degree than men.

However, this proportion is further worsened by the fact that either most of these women presidents are heads of two-year colleges, which are not as prestigious as four-year colleges, or they are the presidents of women colleges (Gupton, 2009, p 4)

The men also occupy a large percentage of the district school superintendents (85%). The superintendents are usually promoted from the rank of principals of high schools. However, the number of women principles has recently equaled the number of men principles, therefore the expected to improve further.

Even though this may seem a good advancement, it is negligible compared to the number of women who are involved in the profession of teaching. The teaching profession is made up of 72% women and is sometimes referred to as the profession of the female. This profession despite being largely populated by women it is still mainly dominated by men who are the majority of the district superintendents in the US.

Comparison of the female and male forms of leadership

The question of the comparison between the leadership of men and women usually attracts mixed reactions. There are people who see that the leadership abilities of women are usually measured using the male-gender standards which are somehow biased. However men and women generally lead in totally different ways.

It has been shown that women leaders tend to be more power sharing than that of the men. In exercising their leadership, the women generally create relationships with the people who they are leading and other relevant people to succeed in their leadership.

Women generally tend to be reconciliatory and ready to share power with the people who they are leading it the implications of these actions will lead to better results (Ramsay, 2000, p 3).

However, this is not the case for men leaders who generally do not form relationships. The men usually impose leadership through the rewarding of exemplary work and punishing people who they perceive to have done wrong. However if has been showed that women leaders tend to be reconciliatory than the men leaders (Dean, Bracken and Allen 2008 p 11).

When women are education administrators, their main emphasis is usually on the solution to the personal differences of the students, knowledge of curriculum teaching methods and the objectives of teaching (Growe, n.d, p 3).

Barriers to women advancement in higher education leadership

Women generally face different hurdles in their quest to obtain promotion to higher levels of leadership in institutions of higher learning. The women usually occupy large numbers of leadership positions the midlevel administrative positions and in lower levels of leadership. The midlevel administrative positions include the deans and directors of various faculties in institutions of higher learning.

The lower levels are mainly librarians and dealing with student issues. The women in the lower levels f administration are usually considered for promotional faster than in the other levels.

However when the women reach this level they start getting the promotions at a slower rate. Hence, they are said to experience a glass ceiling, which hinders their promotion to the higher levels of administration (Alemán and Renn, 2002, p 484).


To increase the number of women in management of institutions of higher learning, the government should not just offer lower qualifications for the women. The most important thing for governments to do is to increase the participation of women in leadership of institutions higher learning, is to take measures that will lead to an increase the quantity and quality of women in institutions of higher learning.

The increase in the number of women who enroll in both the undergraduate and post graduate courses of institutions of higher learning will enable women to effectively compete with men for the available post which require educational qualifications. Increasing the quality of education offered to the women enables the women to obtain the necessary qualifications required to get leadership jobs in higher education institutions.

This would greatly help in reducing the underrepresentation of women in institutions of higher learning as sometimes the institutions are willing to hire women but lack women with the necessary qualifications (Singh 2002 p 54).

This can be achieved through the setting up of scholarship funds for women and improving the conditions of postgraduate studies to cater for the needs of women (Singh 2002 p 55). Already some universities have started implementing this and offer a variety of programs meant for women (Bethman, p 1)

The institutions of higher learning should also come up with training programs and courses that target women to help improve their knowledge and leadership skills. These courses should focus on helping the women to improve their knowledge on a variety of issues on management which are applicable to higher education.

They should also train women on developing plans which will enable them to effectively cope with their personal and professional lives which are both very demanding on the women (Singh 2002 58).

These courses may just be short courses given to the female staff of various institutions or they may be integrated into degree programs to help the women. These courses help the women to effectively cope with management of higher educations institutions thus enabling them to effectively compete with the men.

Summary and conclusion

As outlined in the above paper women face a diverse of issues concerning their representation in institutions of higher learning. The men have dominated all the aspects of leadership in higher learning. Therefore the women need to be extra vigilant to ensure that they are effectively represented in all the education spheres.

The women should not just expect favour from the government in order for them to get representation in these institutions. The women should arm themselves with the necessary knowledge which will lead to their elevation to leadership positions in institutions of higher learning.

However, one important aspect, which one should note, is that the representation of women in all spheres of society is slowly increasing and in the future, it is expected that the number of women in various leadership positions will be equal to that of the men.

Having more women in leadership positions will ensure that they are equally represented and the few do not lead the many as it continues to happen in the institutions of higher learning in the US.

Due to the economic crisis facing the US, the problem of women being under represented is likely to be reduced as history has proven that drastic measures are usually taken during times that are considered hard.


Alemán, M., Renn, K. A. (2002). Women in higher education: an encyclopedia. CA: ABC-CLIO.

Bethman, B. L. College and university women leadership programs. Web.

Chliwniak, L. (1997). Higher Education Leadership: Analyzing the Gender Gap Washington DC ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education. Web.

Dean, D. R., Bracken, S. J. and Allen, J. K. (2008).. Virginia Stylus Publishing, LLC. Web.

Growe, R. . Web.

Gupton, S. L. (2009). Women leadership in the US: reflections of a 50 year veteran. Forum for public policy. Web.

Hartman, M. Women in power: A theoretical framework. (Attached material).

Jones S. D. (2005). Leadership in higher education: influences on perception of black women. Web.

Ramsay, E. (2000). Women and leadership in higher education: facing international challenges and maximizing opportunities. Web.

Singh, J. K. S. (2002). Women and management in higher education a good practice handbook. United Nations educational scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO). Web.

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