Alice G. Reinarz, Advising Administrators Commission Chair
Unlike our grandmothers, most women currently in administrative roles were reared with a social message that 'you can do anything you want.' While that message has brought many exciting opportunities, many women have found that the unpredictable challenges can outweigh the opportunity. This is particularly true if one is 'the first woman' or 'the only woman' in a particular role. Therefore, it becomes essential that women in administration be active mentors to others in our community.
Women are painfully aware of the impact of gender in positions of power. Even though most administrators (both men and women) are aware of the pitfalls in gender labeling, there are many examples of differences. For instance, a strong assertive male leader is respectfully known as the 'boss,' a woman with those same traits may be described with an altogether different label.
Among the challenges often mentioned for the woman administrator (particularly a novice), we might include:
There are additional dilemmas that particularly complicate roles for women leaders.
Women in administration must seek out resources in a paradoxical environment. Trained in an academic discipline, our first natural inclination would be to learn by researching the topic. But there is a problem. While there is a wealth of leadership literature with parts tailored to women, there are few sources that address these issues for women in higher education administration, and virtually nothing specific to academic advising.
By focusing on concerns that may be unique to gender, there is no intent to oversimplify. Further, there are circumstances in which many factors like race and ethnicity, religious choice, and sexual preference may affect the work environment for the administrator. Whatever the concern, the solutions can be the same. Colleagues provide these suggestions:
To specifically assist women advising administrators in finding more information and guidance, we are developing a list of helpful leadership literature from both the popular press and scholarly references. The beginnings of this list are available on the NACADA web site through a link in the posting of this article within the Advising Resources of the Clearinghouse for Academic Advising. We need women administrators to suggest materials that have been useful in addressing these concerns. Send reference information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Understanding the needs of advising administrators is multifaceted. While the challenges faced by women administrators can be unique, the methods of addressing these challenges are not. Exploring a variety of support opportunities can help all administrators find workable solutions.
Alice G. Reinarz
University of Michigan
Cite this article using APA style as: Reinarz, A. (2002, December). Women's issues in higher education administration. Academic Advising Today, 25(4). [insert url here]