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Management, leadership and gender representation in UK higher and further education

Duncan McTavish (Division of Public Policy, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)
Karen Miller (Division of Public Policy, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 8 May 2009




The purpose of this paper is to analyse gender representation in leadership and management in further and higher education organisations. It does this, through the lens of two perspectives on bureaucratic representation, a “liberal democratic” perspective and an alternative view which states that bureaucracies are not necessarily gender blind or women friendly. The paper reviews the reform and managerial environments, vertical and horizontal gender patterns in the sectors; undertakes empirical research which surveys staff in six case study institutions seeking responses on job roles and activities, career motivators and inhibitors, supportiveness of line managers, perceptions of organisational leadership and culture with regard to gender equality and career advance.


Secondary data were used from a variety of sources. Primary data were based on all staff surveys using online software symbolic network analysis program in case study institutions with n=4,522, representing one quarter of the population.


Non‐executive levels of management in both sectors were highly gendered and unrepresentative of the population. Vertical segregation was found at executive level too, though less in colleges than universities. In higher education, horizontal gendering – in subject areas – and the emphasis on subject knowledge and background with the connected gender segregation of research activity, played a crucial role in unequal gender representation patterns. In colleges, while there was horizontal subject‐based segregation, the lesser importance of research/subject background in the career dynamic has created opportunities to de‐couple subject background and career opportunity. Part‐time working, especially in colleges, had mixed effects in gender career terms. The research showed that in universities women spent greater proportions of time in teaching and administration vis‐a‐vis research compared to men. Work life balance was not a career inhibitor for women in higher education but was for women in colleges. Some other key similarities and differences in perceptions between men and women in both sectors are outlined, perhaps the most striking of which was that women in both sectors, while agreeing that opportunities policies are equal and fair, felt that institutional leadership could do more to advance the careers of women; men did not.


This is the first study of its kind to compare and contrast college and university sectors, and makes a significant contribution to understanding of gender representation in organisations. While, there are similarities between the sectors, this research has highlighted major differences which have importance for research, policy and managerial practice. The paper, in its conclusion, aims to stimulate action by suggesting some practical initiatives, based on the research.



McTavish, D. and Miller, K. (2009), "Management, leadership and gender representation in UK higher and further education", Gender in Management, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 178-194.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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