Leadership, Gender and Organisational Culture at Catalonian Universities: Case Studies
In this paper we summarize the most relevant findings from two research studies carried out at Catalonian universities. The purpose is to incorporate a gender perspective into the study of university management.
Literature concerning leadership in higher education provides distinct views on whether style is related to gender (Young, 2004, Taormina, 2007, Harlow and Hearn, 1995, Alvarez et al, 2007). Our paper aims at contributing to improving the theoretical and practical aspects regarding leadership and gender which can influence an organization’s culture. The methodological approach is qualitative, based on in-depth interviews with twelve university professors, questionnaires completed by five departmental female leaders from four public universities from Catalonia, participatory observation and documentary analysis.
The results show that Catalonian public universities seem to promote a no-gender differences leadership style. Despite this, there are some cultural aspects related to feminine or masculine leadership styles in organizations. For example, the organizations led by women are more communicative and team-work oriented. Women managers apparently identified more with male gender paradigms and displayed male-type leadership behaviours. Male leaders are more results-oriented, while female leaders focus more on collaboration and transformation aspects. The study analyzes the role of women in both horizontal and vertical management structures, taking into account their expectations and perceptions.
Overall, the results point to the existence of both external and internal barriers that explain the lack of women in university management. Among these barriers, organizational culture appears as a change-resistant element that promotes an environment dominated by male values and justifies most women’s self-exclusion from university management. The study also identifies the main features whereby these women depict their experience in management and attempt to articulate an alternative discourse for leadership in university.
Keywords: University Leadership, Gender Studies
Professor, Psychology and Educational Sciences, Open University of Catalonia
Marina Tomàs Folch
Professor, Departamento de Pedagogia Aplicada, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona