Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Influence of Mentorship and Role Models on University Women Leaders’ Career Paths to University Presidency

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Influence of Mentorship and Role Models on University Women Leaders’ Career Paths to University Presidency

Article excerpt

Scholars have consistently pointed to the crucial role that mentoring and role models play in women's career path advancement (Brown, 2005; Dunbar & Kinnersley, 2011; Ely, Ibarra, & Kolb, 2011; Madsen, 2008; Schipani, Dworkin, Kwolek-Folland, & Maurer, 2009). Mentoring is important for women at all levels of the academy-as graduate students, faculty, and administrators-in providing them with (a) career role models, (b) career development and advice, (c) sponsorship and greater visibility, (d) advice for successfully balancing work/family responsibilities, (e) career guidance and support, and (f) strategies for overcoming gendered barriers (Brown, 2005; Dunbar & Kinnersley, 2011; Gibson, 2006; Kurtz-Costes, Helmke, & Ulku-Steiner, 2006; Madsen, 2008, 2012). Researchers suggest that women need role models who can show them how to advance despite existing barriers (Kurtz-Costes et al., 2006). There is a critical need to prepare women to form leadership identities, negotiate barriers to women's advancement, seek mentoring and role models, support one another, and combat stereotyped attitudes toward women's leadership (Pfafman & McEwan, 2014; Madden, 2011; Salas-Lopez, Deitrick, Mahady, Gertner, & Sabino, 2011).

Madsen (2008) explains that the dearth of research concerning university women's pathways is a result of the small percentage of "women serving as presidents of research and comprehensive institutions" (p. 136). Further, King and Gomez (2008) assert, "there is almost no information on those individuals in the senior campus administrative positions [e.g., academic dean, executive vice presidents, CAO, etc.] that most typically lead to the presidency" (p. iv). As such, the majority of leadership studies in higher education have almost exclusively focused on the experiences of white males-"rendering] women's experiences as invisible" (Chliwniak, 1997, p. 19). The lack of published research pertaining to the influence of mentoring and role models on women administrators' career paths to the university presidency is made more significant when considering the findings from The American College President report, which projected that over the next 10 years there will be a large number of presidential retirements (American Council on Education, 2012). The projected vacancy in presidential positions will present greater opportunities for qualified and talented women to advance to presidencies. However, unless women are prepared to assume these leadership roles, it is likely that the majority of these positions will continue to go to men. Consistent with this idea, Morley (2013) lamented the loss of talent through a lack of mentoring, sponsorship, guidance and support at critical moments in women's career path and commented that remedial mentoring programs designed to address women's "inadequacies" in leadership preparation have not alleviated gender disparities in attainment of leadership positions.

Bornstein (2009), Madsen (2008, 2012), and Marshall (2009) point to the need for more empirical research relating to the career path and pipeline issues that may serve to motivate or hinder women's advancement to the presidency in university settings. In general, there is a gap in the empirical literature in higher education pertaining to the career paths of university women in key-line administrative positions to the presidency (e.g., academic dean, vice president, chief academic officer) and university women presidents (Arini et al., 2011; King & Gomez, 2008; Madsen, 2008, 2012). Consequently, the relationship between mentoring and women's advancement to the college presidency remains underexplored (Brown, 2005).

Purpose Statement

In seeking to add to the empirical research on the role of mentorship in women's advancement to university presidencies, our intention was to explore how women in key-line administrative positions to the presidency and university women presidents understood the influence of mentoring relationships and role models in their career paths to leadership. …

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