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Women leaders as agents of change in higher education organizations

Julián López Yáñez (Department of Didactics and Educational Organization, Faculty of Sciences of Education, University of Seville, Seville, Spain)
Marita Sánchez Moreno (Department of Didactics and Educational Organization, Faculty of Sciences of Education, University of Seville, Seville, Spain)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 14 March 2008

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to point out the relationship between women leadership and their role in the transformation of university organizations, on the basis of eight case studies analysed in the framework of a broader research on women who occupy high‐managerial posts in Spanish universities.

Design/methodology/approach

Two of the eight cases studied are more deeply described and discussed in terms of the relationship among the organizational context in which these women leaders perform their managerial functions, the leadership styles that they deploy, as well as the transformations they promoted in critical moments of the organizations that they head.

Findings

Even though the differences in all these aspects between the two cases studied do not allow a single and homogeneous “feminine style” of management to be identified, a flexible and adaptive common orientation in terms of leadership was found, which leads one to suggest that leadership style is not a relevant issue when managing loosely coupled organizations. Furthermore, some conclusions were established about the ability of these woman managers both to read organizational culture and to drive such changes, preserving social cohesiveness and the workplace climate. To achieve this, they adopted a flexible leadership style on the basis of a wide range of power sources.

Originality/value

The findings support the idea that the loosely coupled structures characteristic of a higher education organization need “soft” ways of power management, oriented more towards informal social networks than formal issues. This allows one to discuss the innovative role that women potentially and actually play in higher education organizations.

Keywords

Citation

López Yáñez, J. and Sánchez Moreno, M. (2008), "Women leaders as agents of change in higher education organizations", Gender in Management, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 86-102. https://doi.org/10.1108/17542410810858303

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited