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Monday, August 10, 2015

Higher Education, Leadership and Women Vice Chancellors: Fitting in to Communities of Practice of Masculinities, by Paula Burkinshaw

Mary Evans, centennial professor in the Gender Institute, London School of Economics on proposals for achieving equal representation of women and men in university hierarchies.

I was brought up among teachers, of various subjects and institutions. Among the views these excellent people voiced most frequently were those relating to what made a good headteacher or principal. There seemed to be two particular characteristics involved. 
The first was that the person must be able to evoke the loyalty and the affection of support staff. The second was that “they” must never be in the job for any reason other than that of dedication to the institution. The pursuit of money, honours or general self-aggrandisement were unacceptable, and denounced as the most transparent of motives.

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan, publication date July 2015.

These views were voiced four decades ago, when the world of teaching (in which I include universities) was in many ways different from the one Paula Burkinshaw writes about, not least in the various forms of competition that have been introduced to all sectors of education. In this frenzy of competition, inclusion and exclusion, university leaders are now compelled to engage, although it is heartening that Burkinshaw cites research indicating that vice-chancellors are also motivated “by social justice and quality rationales in their ambitions for gender equality”.
Despite these worthy sentiments, in 2011 when Burkinshaw conducted her detailed and careful research, only 13 per cent of the UK’s vice-chancellors were women, largely in institutions outside the Russell Group. Her explanation for this state of affairs is partly revealed in the subtitle of her book. But while I entirely hold to the idea that all institutions should be run and led by people who represent the people for whom those institutions exist, I am less convinced that the best way to achieve equal representation of women and men in university hierarchies is to introduce the measures the author advocates.
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Source: Times Higher Education