Academic journal article Communication Studies

2003 Keynote Address: Communication, Women, and Leadership

Academic journal article Communication Studies

2003 Keynote Address: Communication, Women, and Leadership

Article excerpt

Editor's Note--To facilitate the perusal of this noteworthy keynote conversation and expand its dissemination, Drs. Pearson and Trent furnished us with the following written comments.

Judy Pearson's (JP) Opening Thoughts

Thank you, Roberta, for both Judith and me for that warm and inviting introduction. We are grateful to you for inviting us to participate in this keynote conversation. Our fondness and respect for each other and for you create a particularly cordial context.

Today's keynote topic is "Communication, Women, and Leadership." Judith and I selected this topic because it includes the three items about which we know the most. We will divide our time and converse for about 20-25 minutes. I am obviously beginning the talk and I will also offer a benediction at the end. In the middle, Judith will compare two studies that we conducted--the first 20 years ago and the most recent, this year. I will offer some commentary on those studies.

Before we move into the 'meat' of our discussion, I think it is appropriate that we talk about the importance of this topic. Our world, today, presents perils that affect our personal and public lives: Eroding family systems, an increased role of media in establishing normative or acceptable behavior, extreme acts of violence, the failure of multinational corporations, and, oh, yes, the war. The problems are large enough that we cannot count on 1/2 of the population to solve them. Women, as well as people of color, will be, and have been, essential to the solutions of these problems.

If you are a male, you may wonder why this topic is important to you. You have mothers, sisters, and daughters who are directly affected. Also, you are likely to have women and people of color working for you or you will be working for them. Indeed by 2010, nearly 70% of the new entrants into the workforce will be women and people of color (Teuke, 2003).

The physicist Max Planck (1968, pp. 33-34), explained, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but because rather its opponents eventually die out and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." This idea has direct application to our acceptance of women in leadership roles. We may not be able to convince people who believe that men are more appropriate for leadership roles that women can serve equally well, but new generations of academics, for example, will be more accepting because they will be more familiar with the notion.

Authors have defined leadership in hundreds of ways. Some of the definitions help us envision men in these roles while others encourage other alternatives. Peter Drucker (1996) notes that the only feature that is essential is that the person has followers. John C. Maxwell (1998), in the 21 irrefutable Laws of Leadership, states that leadership is simply influence. In the Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to let Employees Lead, the authors state that "Leading is learning" (p. 311). Bennis and Goldsmith (1997), offer several essential qualities of leadership including "Knowing yourself," "Clarifying your values and your goals," "Taking risks," "Accepting mistakes and failure as necessary," "Creating and communicating a vision," "Maintaining trust," and "Translating intention into reality" (p. 144). Kevin Cashman (1998) similarly defines leadership as "authentic self-expression" (p. 31) that "creates value" (p. 63). In other words, people who are leaders express honestly who they are--with their special gifts and their limitations--and they create value. I think it is this last definition of leadership that we were exploring in the two studies that we conducted, Judith. [End of JP's Opening Thoughts]

Judith Trent's (JT) Opening Thoughts

In her book, Why So Slow: The Advancement of Women, Virginia Valian (2000) documents that across all fields advancement in the academy is slower for women than for men. …

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