The Journal of General Education 49.3 (2000) 235-237
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Higher education leadership: Analyzing the gender gap
Luba Chliwniak. (1997). Higher education leadership: Analyzing the gender gap (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, Vol. 25, No. 4). Washington, DC: George Washington University, Graduate School of Education and Human Development. 129 pp. $24.
As an ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report on leadership, Luba Chliwniak's Higher Education Leadership: Analyzing the Gender Gap does little more than catalogue some of the relevant research on the effects of gender in higher education leadership or, more precisely, the impact of women administrators and faculty on higher education. A short, superficial, and simple analysis of such issues as "women's leadership styles" and "career satisfaction," Chliwniak's text attempts to be something it simply cannot be: a careful analysis of women's historical place in higher education and the many complex effects of gender norms on their participation as faculty and administrators. Reporting on selected studies, Chliwniak provides the reader with a rather elementary guide to the literature and does little to illuminate the pertinent issues. That said, I believe her text can serve as an introduction to gender and higher education leadership, with its sampling of issues, theories, and research. The novice student of higher education, for example, could make use of this text.
Chliwniak sets out to frame our view of gender in higher education via six sections in which she addresses women's exclusion and inequity in post-secondary institutions. The sections attempt to frame the "gender gap" in higher education leadership via communication patterns, persistence factors, and evaluative tools. Her goal is to determine the reasons for the paucity of women leaders in America's colleges and universities and the effects that the absence of women's leadership has and will have on institutions. Chliwniak seeks to consider women's leadership as "the emerging leadership style" in higher education, without which institutions will be hindered (p. 2). Given these objectives, it is disconcerting that Chliwniak does not give serious attention to the established and growing body of literature on the production and [End Page 235] reproduction of gender as a cultural construct, and not as an essential biological condition, and that she rarely complicates this very issue in her discussion. In that vein, via a disclaimer, the author dismisses the consideration of race and ethnicity as factors that affect gender, an act that allows for the simplification of the treatise on gender and its effects. As she writes, the report "deals with women in general" and the "lack of focus on race, ethnicity, and/or social class" should be taken up in other scholarly endeavors. In the field of gender studies, the complex and entangled nature of gender cannot be dismissed. The intricate and involved experiential realities that construct gender in American society demand a scholarly scrutiny that takes into account the multiple dimensions of identity. This is especially necessary when one sets out to "explore women's place in higher education institutions historically and currently" (p. 2). To engage in an understanding of women and their experiences as historical entities is to inquire and examine how norms of femininity and masculinity are mediated and moderated by such things as race, ethnicity, social class, and sexuality. Women's lives in higher education leadership are not lived "in general"; these are lives in which the realities of such things as race and class do matter in how they are gendered and how their gendered acts are perceived and assessed.
Despite the rather serious flaws in the report, I do believe that Higher Education Leadership: Analyzing the Gender Gap can be a useful resource for those students of higher education just beginning to evaluate women's participation in the administration of American colleges and universities. For example, last semester I assigned the text in a graduate course, "Gender and Higher Education." The more experienced graduate students in the course found Chliwniak's report lacking in sophisticated analysis, citing the dated and disciplinarily narrow research explored and the thin presentation...