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PATTERNS OF POWER: WOMEN DEANS
CAROL A. ISAAC
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Carol A. Isaac
I dedicate this dissertation to the memory of my sister,
whose presence will always live in my soul.
I am very grateful to Dr. Linda Behar-Horenstein in the Department of Educational
Leadership and Policy, and to Dr. Mirka Koro-Ljungberg in the Department of
Educational Psychology, my committee chairs and mentors at the University of Florida.
I would also like to thank my other committee members, Dr. Sevan Terzian and Dr. Larry
Tyree, for their valuable guidance and support. I also want to thank the Department of
Educational Leadership for the invaluable gift of an Alumni Graduate Fellowship, which
made my dreams come true. Many other faculty, staff, and students from the College of
Education have supported me during some very difficult times during the last four years;
I thank them all. Finally, I would especially like to thank my partner, whose untiring
patience, love, and humor have sustained me though some difficult times. Our
partnership balances struggle and contentment, commitment and freedom, and has truly
enlarged my life.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............... ................. .......... iv
TABLE .............................................. ..... ....... vii
FIGURE ................... .............. ................. ....... viii
ABSTRACT ................. ...................................... ix
PROLOGUE: THE CALL ........................................... xi
1 INTRODUCTION .......................................... 1
Research Questions ............................... ............. 2
Theoretical Framework .............................................. 3
D definition of Term s ................................... ......... .... 5
Subjectivity Statement .............. ............................. 8
Significance .......... .... ...................... ..... ........ 9
Limitations .................................................... 10
2 LITERATURE REVIEW ........... ................... ......... 12
Introduction ................................................. 12
Predecessors-My Great Aunt Helen .............................. 12
Deans of W omen ............. ...................... ............ 14
Women in Academia ................... ............................ 16
Women in Higher Education Administration ............................. 20
Leadership ........... ........................................... 23
The Binary of Feminism .................. ........................... 29
Social Feminism: Victimization and Power ............................ 30
Kristeva's Poststructural View of Feminism ............................ 31
Summary ............ ............................................ 36
3 METHODOLOGY .................................................37
Introduction: Epistemology and Theoretical Framework ..................... 37
Rhizome .................. .. .............. ...... ...... ......... 39
Research Method: Interviewing ........... ..... .................. ... 41
Poststructural Interviewing ............... ......................... 42
Participants and Setting ............... ............................ 44
Data Collection Methods ............... ........................... 45
Validity and Trustworthiness ............... ........................ 45
Summary ............ ............................................ 47
4 IDENTITIES BECOMING ...........................................48
Identity of the M asculine ................ .... .......... ........... 51
Identity of the Feminine .............. ............. .... ......... 52
Identity of the Father .......................................... 53
Identity of the Quintessence ............... ......................... 56
Identity of the Third Generation .................................... 58
5 LEADERSHIP BECOMING .......................................... 64
Unfolding the M asculine ............................................. 64
Unfolding the Feminine ................................ ............. 68
Power ........... ................................................ 73
Unfolding Power ..................................... ............. 75
Unfolding Powerlessness ............... ........................... 79
Unfolding Authority ................. ............................ 80
Unfolding Service .................................... ............. 85
Unfolding Stereotypes ..................................... .......... 91
Unfolding Difference ............................................. 99
Unfolding Resistance through Adaptability ............................ 100
6 CONCLUSION ....................................................106
Implication and Further Research .................................. 115
Epilogue ............ ................................. ............ 116
APPENDIX RHIZO-MAP ................................ ........ 117
REFERENCES ........................................... 118
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........................................ 126
1 Participants' pseudonyms and general attributes ........................ 44
1 Rhizo-Map: Lines of becoming ................................... 117
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
PATTERNS OF POWER: WOMEN DEANS
Carol A. Isaac
Chair: Linda Behar-Horenstein
Cochair: Mirka Koro-Ljungberg
Major Department: Educational Administration and Policy
Leadership discourse has been written and practiced by white male
administrators, consequently silencing the feminine representation. Most gender research
takes a critical view with a strict focus on the hierarchical patterns of power; however,
power is multidimensional as men and women consciously and unconsciously sustain
persistent inequalities. This purpose of this study was to deconstruct the term
"leadership" and to examine patterns of discourse, subjectivity, resistance, and power and
knowledge in women administrators in male and female dominated fields using a
feminist postructural lens.
Ten women administrators from a Southeastern university were interviewed using
a semistructured interview approach. Binaries within the text were unfolded using
Deleuze and Guattari's rhizome and were then deconstructed using Derrida's methods of
disrupting the hierarchy of opposition and demonstrating its instability. My reflexivity
influenced this study by my experience as a reorganized healthcare manager, and by the
2003 suicide of my sister, a clinical neurologist, who failed to gain tenure in a top-tier
medical school. These experiences disrupted my previous concepts of leadership and
provided impetus for this study. My interest focused on how the participants constructed
their identities within their surrounding discourses.
Their language unfolded a predominant masculine discourse, but these women's
identities resonated within feminine practices which created internal and external
discomfort. These women desired to produce power through delegation and shared
governance but also controlled power deliberately. Their stories validated that women
can be both reproducers of the species and producers of culture. There was evidence that
creating a counterculture strengthens the oppositional binaries and erases individuality.
The stories illustrated that "gender-bending" may result in "failed assimilation" as
women reenact masculine characteristics of leadership.
These women's discursive practices shifted between the oppositional binaries of
masculine/feminine, powerful/powerless, service/authority, stereotypes/difference and
resistance/adaptability creating new concepts of leadership. Deleuze and Guattari's "line
of becoming" passed through those binaries and multiplied the leadership possibilities of
these women. This research gave these women voice, but as other women identify with
the stories of these participants, their reflections and writings will unfold new
becomingg" for leadership.
PROLOGUE: THE CALL
I remember the chill of hearing the message at 7:00 a.m., Wednesday, "This is the
Sunnyvale police department, please give us a call regarding your sister." The police had
left a message at 9:00 PM on Tuesday the night before, but we had gone to bed early and
had not heard it. Before calling, I went to take a shower. Somehow I was not ready to
deal with whatever reality was coming. Perhaps I also knew intuitively that it was too
late, because, by that time, it was. My sister had committed suicide Tuesday, May 27,
She was a clinical neurologist working at a well-known research institution and
had spent the last several years attempting to obtain a tenured faculty position. This
institution already had a history of not promoting women, and three women physicians
had been forced to leave in the last several years. As with many prestigious institutions,
faculty are recruited into tenured positions for research dollars. Often junior faculty
place the work experience on their resume and go elsewhere for tenure. However, for a
variety of reasons, my sister did not leave-could not leave, and placed the entire blame
on the institution for her act. The question whether an institution can be blamed for such
a death can be debated; less debatable is the ominous effect of a female colleague killing
herself on other striving females in the profession. Intellectually I know that
organizations do not kill people; those people make their own choices. Emotionally,
though, I knew my sister as a sensitive, bright, articulate person who cared about her
patients and medical students.
I had several conversations with her over the last 6 months about her job. Having
been a reorganized healthcare manager myself, she called me regarding conversations
she had with her direct supervisor and department chair. She had been hired previously
by an interim chair who had liked her work, but a new chair was seeking to hire a tenured
position to bring in research money; his goal was to replace her. I had recommended that
she take notes after each meeting with her supervisor. One document I found later read:
He [supervisor] said building a national reputation in headache would be
beneficial, but I have not done that yet. Would Dr. [chairman] be willing to give
me a few years to do that, who knows? It is a clinical job and doesn't bring in
money to the department like someone who brings in grants. I asked if my
position was valued or needed. He said, of course, someone has to see the
patients, but that could be anyone. He said even tenured faculty are not
Under the best circumstances these meetings would have been horrible. Because my
sister had been sleep-deprived for several years, her depression in her premenopausal
years deepened and made these events intolerable.
By noon on Wednesday, they found her car at a roadside park with cliffs that
overlook the Pacific Ocean. My sister loved the ocean. She collected sea glass in
Massachusetts where she lived years before. She had taken friends and family members
over the Santa Monica Mountains on Highway 17 to Santa Cruz many times. She loved
the coastal mountain cliffs of California; later I was told by friends that she would go
there to "get away from it all." In hindsight, this term provided new significance.
The police found her car Wednesday morning and later found her body crumpled
at the base of a 275 foot cliff a quarter of a mile north of the park. They called my
mother, and she called me Wednesday night around 7:30; my mother's words rang in my
ears, "it's over." But it wasn't over; it had just begun. My partner and I got to her house
on Thursday night. It was chilling to walk into that house as my sister had left it. Papers
were strewn all over her dining room table and clothes were everywhere in her bedroom,
representing to me the chaos of her mind during those last few hours. Two weeks prior,
my sister had received notification that her chair, who had considered leaving, had
decided to stay. My mother had been out there just the week before, responding to a call
for help from my shaken sister. My mother reported that the house had been clean when
she got there, and my sister seemed settled after her visit having found a new job and
Her reality was not clean and tidy as my mother had seen it. Suicide is a "master
of disguise" where truth remains hidden. My sister, as a physician, knew that to tell
anyone of her feelings could endanger her license to practice medicine. My father called
her the day before her death and reported that her conversation was "scattered" with only
superficial details; he said she did not want to talk. I talked to her 2 weeks prior to her
death for 15 minutes regarding her possible move to somewhere-she did not know what
to do. Later I realized that her panicked call was the date she found out her chair was
staying, and that she would have to leave. I have replayed that phone call and the
sequence of events incessantly in my head, attempting to reconcile and justify my part in
her death. I have not found an answer but just more questions that dissolve into the
insignificance of grief.
It is amazing what little we present to the world, but especially to our families in
times of crisis. I was in hyper-drive for months after her death with the sole purpose to
take care of my sister in death as I had not been able to in life. I know now that I was
endlessly attempting to restore a semblance of order to my family and my world within.
That weekend, I boxed up valuables and mementoes to send to family while my partner
sorted my sister's financial matters for the attorney. My mother was arriving on Monday
night so we cleaned and picked up. I did not want my mother to see the house in such
disarray. A sense of order to all this external chaos was necessary to help soothe my
internal world. As we cleaned, we saw more evidence of my sister's inner turmoil. I
needed to hide evidence of her insanity.
I was beginning a journey where a survivor's grief rambles to the next memory of
their loved one and then the next. This grief has no structure, and feelings and thoughts
meander without rhyme or reason. An uncovered memory begins a train of thought that
constantly stops in the middle and reflects to another. C. S. Lewis (1981) described grief
as a "long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape"
(p. 69). A suicide survivors' grief is different in that, while survivors' know "how" they
died, we don't know "why," thus the endless search of their lives and our own-"what
could I have done." In the months immediately following her death, family talk focused
on memories of my sister and the "why" question; painful as some of it was. Perhaps my
guilt was driving the compulsion to touch every part of my sister's life.
The first thing I did after entering her house the first night was to put on her robe
to smell her presence. Her absence was unreal. As the week unfolded, I looked
everywhere for signs of my sister. Strangely, there were two rental video tapes with a
note to return them to such-and-such store. They were both light-hearted movies-not
grim or dark. That first night I woke up at 3:00 a.m., and while my partner slept I
wandered the house aimlessly. Finally, there was stillness; and I wrote an epitaph as I
sensed her presence and felt complete-at least for a while. The epitaph reflected on her
characteristics: her love for travel, her patients, her friends and family, her plants, and her
animals. In the process of writing, I found empathy and compassion for my sister and
"was given a knowing that God loves the pained and afflicted even more." I had not set
out to write my sister's eulogy, but it poured out of the stillness. I sensed how much pain
my sister had been in, and I sensed that her pain was gone-the oppositional binary of
hope and despair.
Other issues clamored for my attention. My sister's answering machine was
filled with messages from worried coworkers and friends. I went to her church when we
got back from the coast, and there was a need for a memorial service.
One by one, I called her friends, shattering the silence and the hope that
everything was all right. I went through her address book calling old friends that I knew
and having them call others. The chain of life is long and a single event affects many. I
realized that while my sister had been depressed for a long time, she was well-loved. Her
friends told me stories, but mostly I listened to the "shock and awe" of the news of her
death in their voices. I heard the depth of remorse and concern. We were not the only
ones who had lost; however, I felt strangely detached from them as if I was watching
from a distance. I could not grieve with them fully; I was listening to them closely for
fragments of my sister and searching for parts of her in them. I perceived that the
intensity of their pain was directly proportional to the amount of love they had for my
Later in the week, we went to my sister's bank, met with the probate attorney, met
with the minister about the funeral, and finally went to the medical school to clear out her
office of her personal items. Of all the events of this week, this task was the most
shocking for me. My mother, partner, and I were met by two secretaries and led back to
her office located behind the copy room. The office had not been touched and appeared
to be waiting for my sister's return. I started to cry as we pulled down her diplomas and
certificates, packed her curios, and loaded some of her books. The secretaries were very
sympathetic, but we were surprised that none of her colleagues met us. The absence of
their presence was deafening. As we left, my anger raged toward this institution that
seemed to have so little regard for my sister's life. My sister's suicide note had said,
"I'm so sorry to do this. But it's all become too much. I don't blame anyone except
[institution]; they ripped up my life and made it impossible to cope."
In the context of her letter, her death, and the lack of personal interaction with her
colleagues, my rage was probably understandable. Perhaps staff knew and avoided us
like the plague. In hindsight, I'm glad I did not meet her supervisor, as I probably would
have behaved badly. Having been in management myself, I knew that the medical school
was probably already circling the attorneys and had been told to avoid any hint of
responsibility. Institutions serve and protect themselves. Institutions can act
anonymously while individual interactions connect faces with actions; no wonder they
did not want to meet us. Within a week, my sister's picture and vitae disappeared off the
website of the medical school. In my mind, my sister's memory was being wiped away;
suicide is unspoken but resounds everywhere. Her absence was presence.
The chairman wrote a condolence letter to my mother after my sister's death that
I write to express my profound sadness at the passing of your daughter, Kathryn.
She was an outstanding neurologist and teacher. I never met a physician who had
more genuine concern for her patients and for their well being. This quality, and
her superior attributes as a physician, earned her the respect of all of her
colleagues and her students. We honored Kathryn at our year-end party for
the residents and faculty. I indicated that I hoped that Kathryn's legacy would be
a renewed appreciation within the Department of the extremely important role
that respect for colleagues and patients must play. Kathryn was our role model in
When I compared this to the notes my sister had written about her meetings with her
chair, I cannot begin to describe the feelings of confusion. What was reality? There are
no words to describe my feelings regarding the disparity between my sister's perception
of what was happening to her and what the chairman wrote about her. Would Kathryn's
death improve the atmosphere of respect in the medical school? Was my sister a martyr
in her own right? We will never know. I do know of two women who left academia who
did not know my sister but knew of her death. These women do not include several
women physicians who were forced to leave this medical institution in recent years.
I could not return for her funeral the next Saturday, but I recorded and transcribed
the event so that other family members and friends could participate. As I listened to the
tape, I was in awe of her contribution to the community and the medical school. I had
never understood the depth of her commitment to her students and patients. One of her
residents spoke of feeling inadequate and always being able to reach out to my sister who
made him "feel incredibly loved." Another medical student, who knew my sister first as
a patient and then as a student, reported how important she had been to the student
community and that she had "really touched so many students" at the medical school.
One of her colleagues, who not only referred patients to her but also sought her
immediately when he himself had a transient neurological episode, described her as a
"real mensch." He described her as "very kind" and "humane." Here is an account of
how one student perceived my sister:
I have known Dr. Isaac both as, I guess, a student at the medical school-she was
my teacher for, I guess, 4 years ago. But I also got to know her as my doctor. I
was diagnosed with cancer back in '99. I had it at two places, in my back, spinal
cord cancer, and I had back pain for 3 months, and then finally I went to see her.
I had 6 to 9 months left to live, most likely. I am-I wouldn't probably be here
today if it wasn't for her. She ordered the MRI right there and then, and I went
through back surgeries and chemo and radiation for about a year and a half. And
she continued to come in and see me in the hospital when I was going through my
treatment. I saw her love as she would come and see me. I saw her caring, and I
am grateful to her for the impact she has had on my life and, although she may
not be with us today, physically, I feel that her soul has become part of my soul,
and I hope that in the people that I come in contact with, I continue to touch their
lives through her love.
To be sure, these comments are in context of a memorial service; however, there
is no better referral than for colleagues or students to choose someone they work with for
their medical care. Her colleagues and students admired her but had no awareness of her
depression and her problems at work. There were such different perceptions of her life
between her friends and coworkers. I understand that there will always be things that are
spoken and whispered. My mind floated between comments made at her funeral, to her
notes from the meetings with her supervisor, to my mother's condolence letter from the
chairman. Reality is not easily understood and is swayed by the context. I also have a
"knowing" that my difficulty with comprehending the fragments of her last few days,
were not unlike her search for a reality she could live with ... or could not. No matter
how others may have loved and admired her, she was isolated from that love; and that
reality guided her final decision.
At some point I called my father to ask if my brother, another physician, could
help with the estate. My father said, "Why he can't do that, he has to work." To be
honest, I did not think about that statement until later. "Why sure," I thought, "my
brother has to work to support his family." I knew that as a grad student I had more
time-at least more flexible time. My anger simmered off and on all summer evoked by
a host of events, but I realized as never before, the complexity of my father's words. In
essence, that statement represented to me my father's attitude toward women. That
attitude was the reason why he and my mother could not stay married. I had always
known that my father was conservative. I remembered my sister and father arguing
politics, he on the right and she on the left. My sister seemed to become more
conservative in her transition from being a sixties hippie to a physician, but not much.
My physician mother was a strange mix of feminist and Republican, a product of her
As the months passed, I understood my sister's inner conflict as I looked at my
own. I loved both my parents, but there was a drive to "win" that stemmed from their
conflict. My personal history, as my sister's, was fraught with attempts to gain approval
of a male discourse; this drive to "win" back my father's attention (he had a new wife
and family) never ceased and was largely unconscious. I gradually had a "knowing" of
why she died; she could not tolerate being the "outcast" of another patriarchal discourse,
even if it was an institution. Strangely enough, this "knowing" was confirmed by my
sister's psychiatrist who said that children routinely set up scenarios to resolve past
traumatic events. I certainly had done this in personal and work-related relationships, but
what makes some women "go off the cliff" and others persevere? There are other ways
women abandon themselves: not engaging in their heart's desire, staying in abusive
relationships, even ambushing their own success. I now sought some of these answers
via my dissertation. Here was a legitimate avenue to focus my energies and rejuvenate
my soul. I was driven to understand how women negotiate power in academia.
Women leaders are rarely studied in higher education since the authorial voice
has been largely white male, and good practice has been considered to be the techniques
and procedures of white male administrators (Grogan, 2003). Historically, the written
curricula and "null curriculum" send strong messages about what is important (Davidson,
1994, p. 335). There are rules within organizations concerning who can make statements
and in what context. In educational administration, male voices have been the
dominating and defining force.
In response, feminist theory is founded on the recognition of gender as a
legitimate category of analysis (Scott, 1986). Feminist literature from the 1970s onwards
is grounded in such disciplines as philosophy, sociology, psychology, and history that
explored the significance of gender relations (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule,
1986). Flax (1990) argues that feminist theory aims "to analyze gender relations: how
gender relations are constituted and experienced and how we think or, equally important,
do not think about them" (p. 40). If we accept gender as a useful category of analysis to
help us understand administration better, then we need to draw on the experiences of
women in those positions. Biklen and Shakeshaft (1985) call for scholarship on women
that focuses on how women perceive their own worlds. The belief is that this scholarship
will contribute to a fuller comprehension of human behavior and society "since
inadequate conception of the female experience distorts our perspectives on the human
experience as a whole" (Grogan, 2003, p. 18).
Not only have women's authorial voices been excised, but women's
characteristics in leadership are not heard. Most gender research takes a critical view
from a binary "us" versus "them" approach with a strict focus on the hierarchical patterns
of power. The usefulness ofpoststructuralism, a postmodern approach, is in its
questioning and its insistence on understanding the relationship between knowledge and
power. Men and women use power consciously and unconsciously, sustaining persistent
and pervasive inequalities. Power is multidimensional and once this is accepted, a more
comprehensive understanding of the local context is achieved (Grogan, 2003).
Qualitative research is not concerned with generalization, but emphasizes local context.
This study's purpose is to examine patterns of discourse, subjectivity, resistance, and
power and knowledge between women administrators in male versus female dominated
fields using a feminist poststructural lens and discourse analysis.
In a qualitative study, the researcher seeks to discover, understand or describe.
Qualitative research is used to best describe "how" something works rather than the
quantitative perspective of "how well" something works (Borg, Gall, & Gall, 1993).
Qualitative research questions amplify the participants' cultures, relationships, qualities
of practice, and beliefs. For this study, research questions include the following:
* How do women leaders construct leadership and their identities within leadership
* How do these women negotiate and produce power in higher education?
These questions form the basis of the research; however, they do not represent an
Although postmodernism and poststructuralism are terms often used
interchangeably, postmodernism is more encompassing (Schwandt, 2001). To
understand postmodernism, one must understand modernism. For modernist or positivist
researchers, there is a "real" reality "out there" (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000, p. 176), and this
reality is to be uncontaminated by human flaws. Modernism has great faith in the ability
of reason to discover absolute forms of knowledge. However, postmodernism "refuses
all semblance of the totalizing and essentialist orientations of modernist systems and
thought. .. Instead of representing clarity, wholeness, and continuity, postmodernism
is committed to ambiguity, relativity, fragmentation, particularity, and discontinuity. ...
One is the antithesis of the other" (Crotty, 1998, p. 185). Adopting a postmodern
theoretical position involves denying the existence of foundational knowledge on the
grounds that "no knowable social reality exists beyond the signs of language, image, and
discourse" (Hargreaves, 1994, p. 39).
The methods and methodology of this research are embedded in the theoretical
framework of poststructural feminism. Historically, feminist research has stemmed from
the binary perspective of critical inquiry. Feminist theories arising from this body of
literature differ from each other, but what loosely links them is their attention to
"distinctively feminist issues [which are] the situation of women and the analysis of male
domination" (Flax, 1990, p. 40). Although the critical perspective is a common way of
viewing feminism, poststructural theory is another approach. Macey defines
poststructuralism as a "reluctance to ground discourse in any theory of metaphysical
origins, an insistence on the inevitable plurality and instability of meaning, a distrust of
systematic scientificity, and the abandoning of the old enlightenment project" (2000, p.
309). Schwandt adds to this ambiguity by defining poststructuralism as the "decentering
of the notion of the individual, self-aware condition of being a subject.... The 'I' is not
immediately available to itself because it derives its identity only from its position in
language or its involvement in various systems of signification" (2001, p.203). Schwandt
(2001) also describes the theme of pantextualism where "everything is a text-and all
texts are interrelated" (p. 203).
The theoretical framework of poststructuralism which emphasizes the instability
of meaning and systematic methods lends itself to the use of the rhizome. The rhizome
examines the contextual interactions of women in leadership through the unceasing
"connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances
relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 7).
Rhizoanalysis, like searching for related topics on the Internet, starts in one arena and
travels to different plateaus within diverse layers of strata uncovering and discovering
new vistas of knowledge.
As binaries were uncovered through the rhizome, they underwent deconstruction,
which "is a poststructural strategy for reading texts that unmasks the supposed 'truth' or
meaning of text by undoing, reversing, and displacing taken-for-granted binary
opposition that structure texts (e.g., right over wrong, subject over object, reason over
nature, men over women, speech over writing, and reality over appearance)" (Schwandt,
2001, p. 203-4). In place of an oppressive hierarchy, the emphasis is on the contextual
interaction between individuals and institutions.
Feminist postructural writings are built on critical feminist traditions that probe
for research possibilities that "might, perhaps, not be so cruel to so many people" (St.
Pierre & Pillow, 2000, p. 1). Poststructuralism as a subset of postmodernism is linked to
the work of the French writers Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida, and Kristeva (Craib, 1992;
Grogan, 2003; Sarup, 1988). The significant contribution ofpoststructuralism is that it
enables us to understand administration in different terms from those that have been used
in the past. These terms include discourse, subjectivity, power and knowledge, and
resistance (Grogan, 2003).
Definition of Terms
Discourse is an intersubjective phenomenon, where discourse "is not a direct
product of subjectivity and has a constituent role in the production of the symbolic
systems that govern human existence" (Macey, 2000, p. 101). Foucault (1977/1980)
uses the term 'discourse" to help us understand how we are positioned as subjects in
different relationships with others. This understanding of the way we are positioned is
dependent on our relative power in each discourse. Furthermore, these symbolic systems
are ordered "through our linguistic description" (Mills, 2004, p. 47). How our text
describes the world creates our discourse.
This evolving definition of discourse was influenced by Foucault's "discursive
formation," which he described as "homogeneous fields of enunciative regularities"
(Foucault, 1972/2002, p. 117). Discursive formation has also been defined as a "group of
statements in which it is possible to find a pattern of regularity defined in terms of order,
correlation, position and function" (Macey, 2000, p. 101). An example of discursive
formation would be the variety of phenomena that include the roles men and women
assume that produce the concepts of normalcy and deviation.
To understand subjectivity is to understand that discourses systematically form
the objects of which they speak (Sarup, 1988, p. 70). Therefore, a man or woman who
becomes an administrator is shaped or subjectified by that discourse. Subjectivity refers
to "the conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions of the individual, her sense of
herself and her ways of understanding her relation to the world" (Weedon, 1997, p. 32).
For Foucault, "relations of force and power are involved at every level of a
discursive formation; because knowledge is always a form of power" (Macey, 2000,
p. 101). As Foucault suggests, there is an interdependence of power and knowledge;
what counts as knowledge is the relative power of those who claim it; one hypothesis of
power is that the "mechanisms of power are those of repression" (1977/1980, p. 91).
There are rules within a discourse concerning who can make statements and in what
context, and these rules "exclude some and include others" (Craib, 1992, p. 186). In
analyzing gender roles, "sexism comes to feel 'natural' or dominant within a culture, it
does not allow us any real sense of how it would be possible to intervene and change that
process" (Mills, 2004, p. 39).
However gender differences are understood, most feminist leadership analyses
slips into an oppositional discourse between masculine and feminine leadership. In the
construction of gendered leadership discourses, the literature presents masculine
leadership as "competitive, hierarchical, rational, unemotional, analytic, strategic and
controlling, and feminine leadership as cooperative, team working, intuitive/rational,
focused on high performance, empathic and collaborative" (Court, 2005, p. 5).
Leadership characteristics such as "aggression, vision, strength, determination, and
courage are consistent with, and usually positively associated with the masculine traits
that result from the ways boys are commonly socialized within American society"
(Nidiffer, 2001, p. 103). Joseph Crowley (1994), in a historical study on college
presidents, associated with leadership metaphors such as boss, superman, father, titan,
hero, gladiator, and quarterback. In the discourse of educational administration, those
with the power to define good practice are the male administrators whose experiences
form the basis of most texts and much of the research of the profession.
The differences in discourse spark conflict. The "theoretical paradigm of
difference is obsessed with the construction of identities rather than relations of power
and domination, and concentrates on the effect of this difference" (Gordon, 2001, p. 189).
Education thus reproduces existing gender inequalities; however, feminist studies assert
that all people have the capacity to resist oppression (Weiler, 2003). If the definition of
knowledge is expanded to include others' voices, then it is to be expected that such new
knowledge will include a resistance to the formerly accepted knowledge claim (Grogan,
2003). Foucault thought that although the subject is affected by knowledge andpower, it
is "irreducible to these," so the "subject actually functions as a pocket of resistance to
established forms of power/knowledge, in the present age" (Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2001,
p. 230). These insights "warn us to expect conflict, and, secondly allow us to question
taken-for-granted assumptions, particularly about the implications of local policies and
practices" (Grogan, 2003, p. 20).
In applying the postmodern concepts of discourse, subjectivity, power and
knowledge, and resistance to women administrators, we can see how these concepts can
expand and contribute to the educational leadership field. Administrators have been
encouraged to think and behave in ways that have been dictated by a white, male-
dominated discourse shaped by a different age. This phenomenon is very similar to the
example that Foucault gives where "TV and cinema act as an effective means ... of
reprogramming popular memory in which people are shown not what they were but what
they must remember having been" (Woods, 1999, p. 197). Women administrators are so
few that their presence remains the exception, not the rule. Certainly, their practices have
rarely had a voice in administration research because they have been excised (Behar &
I grew up as a child of the 60s, the daughter of two physicians. I had been a
proponent of the feminist movement for years until I joined a fundamentalist movement
during my 20s. In my 30s, my life experiences led me to reject "binary" thinking to
espouse more moderate reactions. In graduate school, I became fascinated with the
critical works of Freire, and those of the poststructuralist, Foucault. Culture is linked
with the shaping of social groups creating a theoretical paradox and opposition between
culture and society. In previous qualitative studies while interviewing faculty, I had
noticed difficulty distancing myself from the content of the interviews due to my
previous experience in management, my interest in future employment, and especially
my interest in power structures. During this study I journaled my thoughts to help clarify
my researcher bias and delineate my ideas for peer debriefing and external audits.
As a previous corporate manager in a large healthcare organization, I have seen
how a new CEO influences the culture of an organization. Like healthcare, education is
facing a budget crisis and dealing with the new national neoliberal philosophy of
efficiency, accountability, and measurement of outcomes, the watchwords of cultural
change in education. With this neoliberal influence comes a hierarchical system that
intensifies competition and a patriarchal discourse. The hospital administration brought
in a consultant for a series of presentations emphasizing an organizational focus on
transition of employees (including managers) and cost-cutting, rather than building long-
term organizational loyalty. This ideology was in sharp contrast to my values of loyalty
and commitment. I slowly changed my management style over the years from a
patient/employee service focus to a cost-cutting focus with disastrous long-term results.
In the short-term, I received praise from administration as I slashed my expenses by
improving efficiency and productivity; however, years later under different management,
the department still has great difficulty retaining professional staff.
So, how could I have "sold out" not only others, but even more importantly,
myself? Expectations were high and consequences were apparent with the number of
managers that had been "reorganized" out of the organization. The institutional
discourse shaped my behavior, and my role with employees became increasingly
binary-"us" versus "them." My managerial experience gives me a unique perspective
of leadership as higher education transitions into a corporate model. Although women
leaders are seen to promote cooperation and collaboration in organizations in contrast to
competitive and hierarchical systems, this poststructural study sought new patterns of
discourse, resistance, subjectivity, power and knowledge in higher education
The contribution of poststructuralist theoretical perspective is in its questioning
and its insistence on understanding the relationship between knowledge and power.
Also, people undergo particular conflict and fragmentation if the discourses within which
they are immersed are not aligned with each other. For instance, a woman administrator
may experience tension and stress as she tries to reconcile the discourse of educational
administration with that of mothering because the two make different demands on her
(Grogan, 2003). This study attempted to ascertain patterns of power and difference of
these women leaders.
Besides the inherent limitations of small sample sizes and the inability to
generalize that stem from using a qualitative research design, there are other limitations
from a poststructural perspective. One problem associated with poststructuralism
involves a complicated view of power because its nature can be detrimental to the social
politics of resistance. This view of politics of difference is not "oppositional in
contesting the mainstream" (St. Pierre & Pillow, 2000, p. 67). Poststructuralists do not
focus on a simple hierarchical view of men oppressing women, but a view of systematic
genderized discourses where even "identity dissolves in a sea of meaningless differences,
nothing stable and secure will remain upon which a politics of resistance can be built"
(St. Pierre & Pillow, 2000, p. 64). Waugh stated that, "feminism cannot sustain itself as
an emancipatory movement unless it acknowledges its foundation in the discourses of
modernity" (Crotty, 1998, p. 195). Feminism as a political movement is dependent on a
critical binary state of "us" and "them," and historically, feminist research has stemmed
from the binary perspective of critical inquiry. However, instead of a hierarchical
pyramid where the top tier oppresses the others, the focus of poststructuralism is the
contextual interaction between individuals and institutions.
Another difficulty with poststructuralism is the implicit epistemological stance of
subjectivism. In subjectivism, "meaning does not come out of an interplay between
subject and object but is imposed on the object by the subject" (Crotty, 1998, p. 9). The
reader of the text is the creator of meaning (Crotty, 1998); thus, people form their own
interpretation of the text based on their own experiences, perceptions, and expectations.
As a researcher, my interpretation of the data was diffused through the lenses of my
subjectivity making even general conclusions and implications difficult. What grounded
the results is the support of the literature, and my persistent adherence to the theoretical
perspective. Before data analysis, I would spend hours immersing myself in
deconstructive thought and then clarify my bias with peer review and debriefing. During
my analysis, these practices averted my initial impressions to simply conform my data to
categories and cultivated the deconstructive complexity through repeated failure. This
"practice of failure" transformed, my "impossibility into possibility where a failed
account occasions new kinds of positioning" (Lather, 1996, p. 3). These "failures"
stimulated me to always look outside my own discourse. In this way, my practices
confronted the dangerous illusion of conventional scientific method that concludes that
the world is much simpler than it truly is, thus enlarging the textual representation
(Denzin & Lincoln, 2000).
While not all anticipated criticism can be considered, another limitation of this
study lies in the lack of comparison of these women's voices to men in leadership
positions. Men were not interviewed because of the preponderance of men's views in the
leadership discourse. The majority of the leadership and management literature have
been written by male authors and researchers. While male perspectives might have
widened the results, the emphasis of this research was on women's representation of
leadership in higher education. Adding male participants would have promoted further
delineation between genders thus lessening the benefits of a feminist postructural
perspective which encourages the avoidance of absolutes and an expanding of current
This chapter reviews the previous research done concerning the aspects of
women's identity as leaders, leadership itself, descriptions of power, and how women
negotiate power. Poststructuralism is a philosophical movement that examines the
production and negotiation of power. The term "feminism" has many layers of meaning,
which are clarified by Julia Kristeva, a poststructuralist with a feminist focus. Much
research has been done on women in academia. Much less has been written on women
leaders in higher education, although there are some historical writings about the
beginnings of women deans at the turn of the century. Adding to this history were
family memoirs about my great aunt who was one of the first deans of women in the
early twentieth century. This story begins the rhizome.
Predecessors-My Great Aunt Helen
After my sister's death, I longed to know those she had loved. When Kathryn
would visit our hometown, she would always go visit our Great Aunt Helen. Since I was
7 years younger, I never really understood her attraction to an older widow who lived in
an old clapboard house next to the campus of Bethel, the local Mennonite college. She
was born in 1890 and died in 1981, but her son was still alive and had some archives
from her life. I interviewed him and transcribed the text. In this interaction, I came to
understand parts of my legacy from a female predecessor as I developed my own voice.
I received an inheritance from a female kin who left signs of "strength, autonomy, or
courage that she will need in daring to aspire to a literary vocation" (O'brien, 1987,
Although she was a faithful Mennonite who stopped working as soon as she
married, my Great Aunt Helen gave those who knew her a familial resource for the social
construction of gender. Aunt Helen was the first women to graduate from Bethel College
in 1912, and later became Dean of Women until she married in 1920. She had taught at
the high school academy and taught German and "Elocution and Physical Culture" to
women college students during her years as dean. Aunt Helen was a charter member of
the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and corresponded with Jane
Addams in Chicago, a prominent social reformer. As a Mennonite, she held to a pacifist
position and was very active in the league on a local level. Aunt Helen was also involved
in The Institute for International Relations, a movement for peace, which brought Martin
Luther King to speak at Bethel College in 1961. Her son was proud of her connection
with these organizations and her promotion of world peace.
Besides having a "practical Christian faith" which promoted peace, she inherited
an "intellectual curiosity" from her father Jacob. Great Aunt Helen had grown up in the
same house with her two aunts, Susan and Elizabeth Isaac, who were the first women
doctors in the state of Kansas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My father's
memoirs tell of how his father, Arnold Isaac, became a doctor because he wanted to be
able to own a car to make house calls (a 1912 Buick) like his aunts did. Therefore, my
great, great aunts were the beginning of a long line of physicians.
Aunt Helen was known to provide "thoughtful and attentive listening and
counseling," especially to new women coming to Bethel. Her son reminisced how she
had "this easy, natural way of talking (problems) through." Her son described her as a
"constant presence in the college community" who was involved in campus activities for
70 years. He also described her as having "devout, basic Christian convictions," "a
tolerant spirit" and as an individual who "was not rigid." In a transcribed interview in
1979, Aunt Helen spoke eloquently and considerately of others. For example, she spoke
highly of her one high school teacher, Professor Richert, who she said students, "got
along very well with him and appreciated him very much." Aunt Helen was remembered
by her family as having "a forgiving spirit and faith in the essential goodness of persons
even when they disappointed her." No wonder my sister liked visiting her.
Deans of Women
The image of the prudish, dowdy matrons or house mothers often comes to mind
when envisioning the women deans of the past. Initially Oberlin and Antioch colleges
had boarding houses for women students in the mid-1900s and to protect women from
the terrible "dangers" of male students with a female supervisor (Nidiffer & Bashaw,
2001, p. 136). Charles Finney, president of Oberlin, recommended to the University of
Michigan that they hire a "wise and pious matron" to supervise women students before
adding coeducation (Holmes, 1939, p. 109). The pattern of hiring "deans of women"
began in the 1890s in Midwestern coeducational colleges to chaperone the influx of
women students. This position played a historical role by being "the first systemic,
administrative response in higher education to cope with a new, and essentially
unwelcome, population" (Nidiffer & Bashaw, p. 136). This began the trend in higher
education of hiring administrators for new marginalized populations.
The battle of coeducation was a cause taken up for educational reformers who
wanted teachers, a largely female occupation. However, the campus environment was at
times openly hostile; therefore administrators sought deans of women. William Rainey
Harper's desire to make the University of Chicago a western Yale prompted him to hire
Alice Freeman Palmer, the former president of Wellesley College, as a history professor
and dean of women (Nidiffer & Bashaw, 2001). Palmer added Marion Talbot as her
assistant and in 1895 Talbot became dean when Palmer retired. Talbot was instrumental
in creating the National Association of Deans of Women (NADW) in 1916, which
transformed the housemother role into a profession. These women who were hired to
conduct bed checks and chaperone women actually were early advocates for females,
representing well-educated, well-qualified, and intelligent women who could "exercise
administrative skills and professional leadership" (Treichler, 1985, p. 24). Deans of
women provided leadership to help female students cope with the "chilly climate" of the
coeducational environment around 1900. Initially, finding housing for women students
was the primary work of these deans. Families were reluctant to send their daughters to
campuses that provided no housing and so boarding houses were used. As the numbers
of female students increased, women deans were able to procure dormitories and
scholarship halls for students. As female students became commonplace on Midwest
campuses, higher education provided opportunities where educated women could find
administrative positions; however, "some deans of women positions were analogous to
home economics departments for academics" where it "became a female ghetto of sorts
with the inevitable glass ceiling" (Nidiffer, 2000, p. 4).
The most influential women contributing to the evolution of the profession were
"Marion Talbot, University of Chicago, 1892-1925; Mary Bidwell Breed, Indiana
University, 1901-6; Ada Comstock, University of Minnesota, 1906-12; and Lois
Mathews, University of Wisconsin, 1911-18" (Nidiffer & Bashaw, 2001, p. 139). Talbot
founded the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA), the predecessor of the American
Association of University Women (AAUW), and was the main proponent of the
professionalization of women deans. Breed's entrance to Indiana University met
resentment from male faculty and students, and from women students who thought they
did not need disciplining. Breed reversed these sentiments through collaboration and
self-government in an era that did not recognize women's contributions. Ada Comstock
helped women deans develop expertise and a scientific approach by articulating needs
and initiatives. Comstock was dedicated to providing women a "sense of community,
leadership roles, employment and intellectual opportunities" (Nidiffer & Bashaw, 2001,
p. 146). She devoted much energy in finding gainful employment and developing career
aspirations for women students. Lois Matthews, who was the first woman to pass
Harvard's Ph.D. examination in history, sought equal status for women deans as
members of the faculty. She negotiated having the title of dean and the rank of associate
professor at Wisconsin. Matthews, who published articles and a book on New England,
brought the deanship to the same intellectual height as her academic career. All these
women transformed the deanship from the role of house-mother to a profession that
eventually became student affairs.
Women in Academia
There is a plethora of feminist scholarly writings with a critical binary emphasis
with themes of subservience and silence. Joan Acker's (1990) theory of genderedd
organizations" recognized that organizational hierarchies are not gender neutral. Park
(1996) described a gendered division of labor where sex-neutral corporations and
bureaucracies are dominated by masculine structures that lead to advantages for males
and disadvantages for female employees. These concepts serve as reflections of
Foucault's "technologies of the self," which are concrete, socially and historically located
institutional practices which construct our sense of who we are. Higher education is
constituted of patriarchal hierarchies where women's status is considered marginalized
and equated with lesser competence and credibility; women perceive difficulty obtaining
research funds, conducting collaborative research with men, having their scholarly work
seen as inferior and devalued, and being rated more negatively by students than men on
student evaluations (Carroll, Ellis, & McCrea, 1991).
Acker and Feuerverger (1996) suggest that it is "what the university stands for,
and what it rewards and what it ignores, that is at issue" (p. 417). Women perceive a
gendered reward structure where research and administration are seen as masculine,
highly compensated skills, and teaching as an "emotional labor" that is considered
feminine and non-essential (Bellas, 1999). Park (1996) stated that "research separates
the men from the boys...and the women" (p. 50). In 1990, one study found that 43% of
male faculty but only 36% of female faculty taught 8 or less hours a week, while 11% of
female and 8% of male faculty spent greater than 17 hours per week teaching (Park,
1996). Differences in research productivity are explained by women's structural position
in departments where they carry heavier teaching loads, bear greater responsibility for
undergraduate education, have more service commitments, and less access to graduate
teaching assistants, as well as travel funds, research monies, and equipment. Women
spend more time on pedagogical efforts than men, creating collaborative learning
opportunities for students.
Promotion and tenure create considerable stress for women, although they often
publish more than their male counterparts to ensure promotion. Toutkoushian (1999)
found that women spend more time teaching and less doing research. They produce
lower levels of research output than men, but no difference was noted in the number of
citations received per article; less research output does not mean lower quality. Women
are less likely than men to be found among tenured faculty/full professors because they
progress at slower rates than men. While doctoral degrees granted to women have
increased from 14% in 1970 to 39% in 1995, they earn lower shares of doctorates in
engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, and business. Women obtained 21% of
educational doctorates in 1970 and 62% in 1995; women composed 33% of faculty at all
institutions in 1992, but 45% of part-time faculty (Toutkoushian, 1999). In 1992, women
composed 25% of full-time and 52% of part-time faculty in agriculture, 50% of full-time
and 57% of part-time in health sciences, and 28% of full-time and 43% of part-time
faculty in the social sciences (Toutkoushian, 1999).
Jean Baker Miller coined a phrase, "doing good and feeling bad" to describe
women's experience in academia (Acker & Feuerverger, 1996, p. 401). Acker and
Feuerverger interviewed 27 full and associate professors to gain an understanding of
women who had at least one promotion in higher education. These transcripts, full of
disillusionment, described women as working excessively hard, taking responsibility for
supporting others (colleagues and students), being "good department citizens," and
feeling bad (p. 408). These women perceived an unequal division of labor with women
working harder, and an expectation that women will take greater responsibility for the
nurturing and housekeeping side of academic life. They described a gendered division of
labor where "the fact that women have been seen as 'naturally' suited to [teaching] has
served to disguise its potential for exploitation and to discourage women from expressing
'outlaw emotions' such as envy and resentment that might be at odds with the caring
script" (Acker & Feuerverger, p. 402). This gendered division of labor assumes that
women will have primary responsibility for nurturing the young and serving men but
"receive little credit for doing so" (Acker & Feuerverger, p. 403). These women "sense
that the academic reward system is out of sync with their preferences, that they are
working harder than they should and that they have a disproportionate share of
responsibilities for the mundane service side of university work and for the emotional
well-beings of the students" (Acker & Feuerverger, p. 404). The repetitive themes of
inequality of workload, the expectation of caring for others, being "good department
citizens" and not feeling "good enough" in a reward system of constant assessment are
considered part of housewife roles, similar to those found in the historical discourse.
Women have to be nurturing or be considered failures or perfectionists and face "chilly
climate stories" (Acker & Feuerverger, p. 409). Men are not faced with the same
Women, discouraged from pursuing their scholarly interests and workload, wish
to speak for women's equity in acts of resistance; however, outspoken women concerned
about the needs of female students will jeopardize their positions at the university. They
are expected to advocate for women's issues, but this places them in a position of
vulnerability where they may find themselves ridiculed, ignored, and disrespected
(Carroll, Ellis, & McCrea, 1991). Afraid of being perceived as "bitchy" and a target of
gossip and ridicule, these women find little other recourse but silence.
In response to internalized sexist messages, women tend to silence themselves
and accommodate others, rather than asserting their own opinions and feelings; however,
much of the burden for creating change has rested on the women faculty themselves
(Bronstein & Farnsworth, 1998). Those female professors who achieved success
sometimes distance themselves as a "queen bee," or in the best scenario, transition into a
women's advocate (Lincoln, 1986, p. 116).
Inappropriate sexual attention was reported significantly more often by women
than by men regardless of their length of time at the university. Women experienced
direct incidents of "harassing and discriminatory behaviors in their day-to-day
interactions more than did men" (Bronstein & Farnsworth, 1998, p. 565). Sexual
harassment is defined as "verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, imposed on the
basis of sex that denies, limits or provides different .. treatment" (Paludi &
Barickman, 1991, as cited in Dey, Korn, & Sax, 1996, p. 151). With regard to academic
rank, professors and assistant professors reported harassment at a rate of one-half to one-
third of that reported by full professors. The study speculated that these results might
have occurred because these professors had longer employment at the institutions;
however, they concluded that sexual harassment has many inherent complexities with the
"interplay between the concepts of position power" (p. 169). What was not suggested is
that as women ascend the ranks of status, they also become a greater challenge to the
men around them and a greater target for interplays of power.
Women in Higher Education Administration
Women in higher education administration have achieved a greater height of
status and prestige. However, Sandler reported that female administrators "remain
concentrated in a small number of low-status areas that are traditionally viewed as
women's fields (nursing, home economics, education), or in care-taking roles (student
affairs), or in other academic support roles" (Park, 1996, p. 54). More women aspired to
lower-level administrative positions than men. Aspirations became nearly equal when
considering the position of university vice president, but few females aimed for the
position of university president. Many women wanted to serve as chair, or
director/coordinator of departments. This research seems to show that females perceive a
"glass ceiling," sensing obstacles that did not affect men in their climb up the career
ladder; females reported homemaking and child care as the toughest social barriers to
advancement (Shultz & Easter, 1997). In this same study, not one male out of 93 men
cited family responsibilities as a barrier to career advancement. Women also perceived
institutional barriers: heavy workloads, bureaucracy, higher education requirements and
lack of funds to meet them, committee demands, limited tenure tracks,
research/publication demands, and the "good old boys" network.
Very few males or females regarded opportunities for males and females as equal.
Marshall and Jones (1990) found no statistically significant relationship between
women's salaries, childbearing and administrative levels in higher education; however,
qualitative responses from 147 participants had 63% reporting that childbearing had a
negative effect while only 30% reported a positive effect. Family roles interrupt the
careers of women seeking administrative careers. Although women perceived that they
can begin families when they wish to and find that the satisfaction outweighs career
problems, women administrators pay a high personal price in maintaining their careers
(Marshall & Jones, 1990).
With regard to women in primarily male-dominated fields, women have
historically always played a subservient role, especially in medical fields as nurses and
technicians taking orders from the "male" physician. In 1949, women comprised 12% of
postwar medical school graduates. By the mid-50s this number dropped to 5%; this was
even lower than in 1941. In 1960, 758 women represented 5% of medical students
(Martin et al., 1988). This number has gradually increased since that time to 49.6% in
2005, and while these percentages give the appearance of a positive trend, in 2005
women represented 15% of all full professors teaching clinical medicine (AAMC Data
Book, 2005). Increased graduation rates have not reduced the prevalence of sexism, and
47% of women physicians have experienced gender-based harassment (harassment
related to being female in a male environment), and 37% reported sexual harassment that
included a physical component (Frank et al., 1998). In her book, Walking Out on the
Boys, Frances Conley (1998), a Stanford neurosurgeon, wrote that "medical school is and
remains an institution of rigid hierarchies-almost an archetypal patriarchal society"
(p. 4). The everyday world of physicians is shaped around a "rigid hierarchy of authority
and power," and "learn to normalize their experiences of mistreatment and abuse"
(Hinze, 2004, p. 103).
Higher education's statistics are slightly better. In the early 40s, women
represented 27.7% of all academic personnel. This number fell to 24.5% in 1950 then to
22% in 1960. Women earning PhDs dropped to 10% to 12% in the 1950s from 16% to
18% in the 1930s (Solomon, 1985). Historically, males have predominately comprised
most of higher education faculty. From 1925 to 2000, the percentage of female full-time
faculty has increased from 19% to 24%; in 1989, 22% of tenured faculty were female,
and in 1998, the number increased to 26% (Wenniger & Conroy, 2001). While women
hold 39% of all faculty positions, these positions are primarily adjunct and part-time.
With educational cutbacks, fewer tenure-track positions, and more restrictive criteria for
tenure, there is a new class of "gypsy scholars, an intellectual "proletariat" who are
predominately female (Park, 1996, p. 50).
In salaries, women faculty are paid 77% of what their male counterparts earn, just
a little more than the two-thirds level at which women were paid in the 50s. Part of this
difference is secondary to women being concentrated in the lower-paying fields such as
nursing and education. Gender has a "statistically significant direct, indirect, and total
effect on salary attainment, with men academics having higher earnings than women
colleagues when controlling for other variables" (Smart, 1991, p. 520). In 1969 men in
academia earned 30% more than women, in 1984 men earned 23% more, and in 1991
women earned 7% less (Toutkoushian, 1999). These studies among many others indicate
that higher education discriminates against women (Wenniger & Conroy, 2001). Some
have argued that women expect too much and should be socialized to cope with the
situation as it is. In reality, women accommodate to academia as it is; they are shaped by
and assimilate into its culture.
Deconstructing the term "leadership" requires understanding its definition and
how it's used. In this section, an overview of the various characteristics of leadership
will be outlined with its associated skills, attitudes, and behaviors. "Leadership" is a
term that everyone seems to understand but have difficulty in defining (Perino & Perino,
1988). The terms "leadership" and the closely related term "management" are embedded
in a masculine discursive voice. Leadership has broader implications than management
and includes the achievement of organizational goals. One definition is whenever one
person attempts "to influence the behavior of an individual or group regardless of reason"
(Hershey, Blanchard, &Johnson, 2001, p. 9). Warren Bennis, a leadership scholar,
differentiated between management and leadership which further delineated the term
Leaders conquer the context-the volatile, turbulent, ambiguous surroundings that
sometimes seem to conspire against us and will surely suffocate us if we let
them-while managers surrender to it. The manager administrates; the leader
innovates .... The manager has his eye on the bottom line; the leader has his eye
on the horizon. The manager imitates; the leader originates. The manager
accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it .... Managers do things right;
leaders do the right things. (cited in Carter-Scott, 1994, p. 12)
Embedded phrases used such as "challenge," "conquer the context," "eye on the
bottom line" or "horizon," and "do the right things" not only distinguish between the
terms "leadership" and "management" but portray a pragmatic, hierarchical discourse.
Inherent in these phrases are an ideology of "best" and "worst." This ideology also
echoes the scientific management approach of Fredrick Taylor, the production of
Several authors identify and define characteristics of good leaders. Passow
(1988) viewed leadership as a group interaction with situational goals and with the ability
to help others achieve goals. Sergiovanni (1990) identified four styles of leadership:
bargaining, building, bonding, and banking. He defines a successful leader as one who
strives to become a leader of leaders, has the ability to create other leaders, and embodies
a commitment to ideas, values, and beliefs instead of power and control; these
characteristics allow for a moral rather than institutional or psychological authority
(Sergiovanni, 1990). Karnes and Chauvin (2005) proposed that leaders should possess a
fundamental understanding of leadership as well as skills for speech, written
communication, character-building, decision-making, problem-solving, personal, group
dynamics, and planning. These authors also believe that these skills are teachable and are
assessed through their leadership training programs.
Porter (1989) viewed the promotion of "ownership" by leaders created effective
empowerment. These leaders must listen and recognize the value in others, create
opportunities for progressive roles for others, reward competency, negotiate barriers,
promote collegial interaction, and create teams for organizational problem solving, and
help individuals understand how their roles contribute to the collective whole. All these
behaviors are to be done without managing and controlling.
"Power," an important structure in leadership discourse, is defined as "influence
potential," where different types of power are emphasized to "maximize effectiveness"
(Hershey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 2001, p. 204). Leaders use power to create change.
These authors distinguish between different types of power using language such as
"coercive," "connective," "reward," "legitimate," "referent," "informative," and "expert"
power (p. 213). Power is defined and identified, but also segmented into strata for a
hierarchical leadership discourse.
How men and women enact power illustrates the oppositional discourse between
masculine and feminine leadership. In a 1998 study, Brunner and Schumaker found that
male superintendents tended to use power to achieve their own view of a community's
common good rather than using their position to pursue the collective common good.
The "power-over" concept was thought to be a masculine concept of power; although
Brunner reported that the power-over is not the concept of power that every man holds.
There has been less research on the "power-with" concept of power, which is considered
feminine in nature. While not exclusively feminine, this concept of power is illustrated
in topics such as collaborative decision-making, site-based management, and authentic
participation where power is collective (Harstock, 1987; Habermas, 1986; Isaac, 1993;
Kanter, 1977, 1979; Miller, 1993; Wartenberg, 1990). Hannah Arendt (1972) described
this concept of power as acts of cooperation to establish relationships among people to
solve difficult social conditions. Miller (1993) suggested that women's identities demand
that power is used to benefit the broader community and not used selfishly or
destructively. In a study of women in state legislatures, Kirkpatrick (1974) found women
searched for solutions to serve the common good where men competed to advance their
The "power-over" and "power-with" concepts of power are reminiscent of Jane
Roland Martin's (1985) description of the productive/reproductive dichotomy of societal
processes. Martin believed that these societal processes are gender related as well as the
traits our culture associates with them. According to American stereotypes, men are
"objective, analytical, rational, interested in ideas and things; they have no interpersonal
orientation; they are not nurturant or supportive, empathic or sensitive" (Martin, 1985,
p. 193). The productive processes include political, cultural, and economic tasks and
functions, where the reproductive processes include caring for the family, helping the
sick, and running the household. Kirkpatrick's finding that women leaders are motivated
to serve the common good is a trait genderization that extols the feminine virtues of
nurturance and care. These virtues have historically motivated women to create solutions
for societal problems and thus aspire to leadership. The authorial voice and practice of
white male administrators has created a productive discourse relegating the reproductive
processes of service and nurturing to the ontologicall basement" (Martin, 1985, p. 15).
Examining the extensive literature on "leadership" also provides a window into
the authorial voice. Typical leadership book titles include Leading with Soul, Leadership
on the Line, Managing by Values, and Dare to Lead. When the reader opens the cover of
these books, the table of contents reveals sensationalized phrases as its own discursive
practice. A table of contents of a typical book, 100 Ways to Motivate Others, uses
phrases such as "creating a dynamic work place," "coach the outcome," "be the cause not
the effect," "accelerate change," "score the performance," "lead from the front," "use
your best time for your biggest challenge," "coach your people to complete," "make it
happen today," "pump up your e-mails," "deliver the reward," and "decide to be great"
(Chandler & Richardson, 2005). This language is used to develop leadership skills and to
motivate people, suggesting that all people can become leaders (Passow, 1988). These
embedded symbols portray a pragmatic, hierarchical discourse.
These authors emphasize the "game" aspect of leadership. Winning is what's
important to the players and supercedes collaboration and cooperation, typically a more
feminine approach to leadership. Leadership is typically a vertical process, a top-down
mentality where a horizontal approach to leadership builds teamwork and unity in an
organization. The intersection between the vertical and horizontal balance helps define
the style of leadership in the organization. A horizontal leadership promotes
collaboration and empowerment of followers, but can slow the decision-making process.
Academia historically has been an institution where professors with tenure have the
power of job security. These academic elites can be very vocal in their demands of
leadership without direct impunity. However, greater accountability creates pressure
within institutions to perform, and faculty sense with disillusionment the vertical
movement of power associated with a loss of decision-making and ownership of the
goals of the institution.
Metaphors are used as a "device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical
flourish-a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language" (Lakoff & Johnson,
1980, p. 3). The metaphor represents the everyday functioning and defines perceptual
realities. Metaphorical language is an important source of evidence of what is the lived
experience of people. To understand subjectivity is to understand that discourses
systematically form the objects of which they speak (Sarup, 1988, p. 70). Therefore, a
man or woman who becomes an administrator is shaped or subjectified by that discourse.
Because poststructuralism suggests that discourse forms the objects of which they speak,
it was important to examine the language of these women leaders.
Academic leaders have greater pressure to conserve resources and manage
personnel more effectively than ever before. Since the 1980s, the changing culture of
neoliberalism means "fewer workers must produce more for less; globalization is widely
invoked as the inexorable force that makes this imperative rational" (Peters, 2001,
p.316). This umbrella of neo-liberalism sees corporate and government involvement as
replacing "privacy and freedom from interference with passivity, dependence, the
colonization of individual wills," and advocates "policies promoting privatization,
consumer sovereignty, user-pays, self-reliance, and individual enterprise, as the solution
to all economic and social ills" (p.125). For many workers the result is white and blue
collar jobs that are benefit-free, temporary, and easily replaceable; far fewer jobs are
permanent, full-time positions.
Higher education is not exempt from these trends. The Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD, 1987) publication, Universities
Under Scrutiny, recommended that existing institutions "adapt: more career-oriented
courses; greater emphasis on applied research and development; planning for technology
transfer and knowledge diffusion; greater accountability and responsiveness of
institutions; increased productivity and efficiency" (p. 3). Henry Giroux (2001) describes
the new hidden curriculum of higher education as the "creeping vocationalization and
subordination of learning to the dictates of the market" (p. 34). In this climate of
accountability, performance becomes a kind of ontology in the "discourse of quality"
(Luke, 2001, p. 62). Lyotard (1979/1984) called this institutional representation
"performativity." Administration and faculty are being driven to greater accountability
and efficiency as never before.
The Binary of Feminism
Feminism means "essentially that a women's or gender perspective is applied to a
variety of social phenomena" (Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2001, p. 209). There have been
multiple brands of feminism, ranging from liberal feminism that primarily seeks sex
equality to radical feminism that "distances itself from the male-dominated society in its
entirety" (p. 209). Male-dominated society is characterized by "individualism, hierarchy,
lack of feeling, impersonality, the competitive mentality, etc" (p. 212). The thesis that
supports this brand of feminism is that the relationship between the sexes is one of
"inequality and oppression" (Macey, 2000, p. 123).
The term "feminism" was first used in the 1830s. Socialist Charles Fourier stated
that, "the degree of women's emancipation was the measure of the emancipation of
society as a whole" (Macey, 2000, p. 123). The term became more widely used in the
1890s during the suffragette movement in Britain and the United States. Most historians
would agree that modem feminism emerged from the French and American revolutions.
In France, Olympe de Gouges published Declaration of the rights of women and of the
female citizen, and in England, Mary Wollstonecraft published The Vindication of the
Rights of Woman. The campaign to obtain the vote was considered the first wave of
feminism, and the second was the women's liberation movement of the 1970s, with
Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan as catalysts of the women's movement. Since the
1980s, there has been a backlash of criticism against feminism fought largely by the
media which stated feminism had "gone too far" (Macey, p. 124). However, in the 90s, a
new generation of feminists contended that women must abandon the old "victim
feminism" in favor of "power feminism" (p. 124), which promotes economic equality
with men, and a focus on liberation for both genders.
Social Feminism: Victimization and Power
The second wave of feminism emphasized the gender differences in power.
Feminist reproduction theorists share a belief "in the power of material historical analysis
and a focus on the relationship of class and gender" (Weiler, 2003, p. 272). Feminist
reproduction theory focuses on how schooling reproduces existing gender inequalities
grounded in Marxist ideology of a connection between schooling and the paid labor
force. Women's oppression is reproduced in schools and is represented in the paid
workforce and domestic work. Social reproduction is defined as "the reproduction of
relationships to and control over economic production and work" (p. 273). The concern
here is with how schools "work ideologically to prepare girls to accept their role as low
paid or unpaid workers in capitalism" (p. 273). Rosemary Deem (1980) echoed this by
it is clear from almost all the chapters that the reproduction in schooling of gender
categories, of class, of the sexual division of labor, of the relations of patriarchy,
plays a significant part in the maintenance of the subordinate position of women
in our society, whether in paid work, public life or the family. (p. 11)
In their research on authority patterns and staffing, Kelly and Nihlen (1982) found
a decline of women in higher paying and higher status jobs from the 1950s through the
1970s. Kelly and Nihlen describe girls' display of resistance by enrolling in higher
education, although primarily in community colleges. Women construct their identities
"through different definitions of what it means to be a woman from their families, their
peers, the school, the media, ... and that this involves both contradictions and conflict"
(Weiler, 2003, p. 279). Anyon (1983) argued that women employ a "simultaneous
process of accommodation and resistance" (Cited in Weiler, 2003, p. 289). The line is
not always clear whether "exaggerated feminine behavior or acquiescence to school
authority can be viewed as accommodation or resistance" (p. 289). Cloward and Piven
(1979) suggested that "the failure of girls and women to participate in public antisocial
groups and activities is the result of a certain psychological tendency to turn opposition
and anger inward in private, self-destructive activities" (Cited in Weiler, 2003, p. 290).
Women gain power by utilizing different roles. To excel in higher educational
leadership, there must be a creative interplay of power between leaders, peers, and
subordinates, coordinating the different roles.
Although the critical perspective is a common way of viewing feminism,
poststructural theory adds depth to the nature of construction of gender identity.
Poststructuralism suggest that within organizations, systems of speech, symbols and
practices divide and "provide a cultural curriculum that disciplines participants to the
meaning of institutional categories" (Davidson, 1994, p. 336). Davidson asserts that
"meanings are enforced in the context of relationships as individuals, and in the attempt
to make sense of each other, attempt to force others into patterns of normative behavior"
(p. 336). Julia Kristeva, a French psychoanalyst philosopher, described these succeeding
generations of feminism in light of poststructuralism.
Kristeva's Poststructural View of Feminism
Julia Kristeva was the only woman philosopher in the 1960s and 1970s to usher in
poststructuralism alongside Foucault and Derrida. Poststructuralism looked at systems
diachronically through process and time using history, process, change, and events, and
Kristeva's writings focused on issues of gender and postmodernism. Kristeva's writings
were overshadowed by the works of Jacques Derrida, who created a way to
"deconstruct" language, but Kristeva's unique contribution was to dynamizee" the
structure by considering "the speaking subject and its unconscious experience on the one
hand and, on the other, the pressures of other social structures" (McAfee, 2004, p. 7).
Kristeva focused on subjectivity where the subject is shaped by all kinds of
phenomena: their culture, relationships, language, history, and contexts. Subjects are not
aware of these phenomena and that dimension is called the "unconscious" (McAfee,
2004, p. 2). McAfee stated that "instead of seeing language as a tool used by selves, those
who use the term subjectivity understand that language helps produce subjects" (p. 2).
Kristeva believed that linguistically the signifying process has two modes: the semiotic
and the symbolic. The semiotic is the extra-verbal way in which bodily energy, including
the subject's drives, is reflected through language. Although much of the nonverbal
communication of body position, gestures, and visceral energy that is associated with
movement was not available via recorded tape in this research (Behar-Horenstein &
Sigel, 1999), the semiotic in language is emotive and makes itself felt. The transcribed
data is a representation of the symbolic, which is the sign system complete with grammar
and syntax; however, the semiotic can be discharged into the symbolic and thus the
dichotomies are intertwined (McAfee, 2004). The symbolic is the sign system complete
with grammar and syntax. Scientists attempt to communicate through symbolic language
with as little ambiguity as possible while artists use expressions that exemplify the
semiotic (McAfee, 2004). The semiotic and symbolic in combination produces types of
discourse and cultural practices.
In Women's Time, Kristeva describes three generations of European feminism.
By generations, Kristeva means "less a chronology than a signifying space, a mental
space that is at once corporeal and desirous" (1995, p. 222). The first space is located
prior to 1968, where women sought all the rights and privileges that men had. Women
deserved equal rights because they were "just like" men; there were no important
differences between genders. These feminists' goal was to "inhabit the time of linear
history, where women's accomplishments could be inserted in the linear timeline of
human history" (McAfee, 2004, p. 93). Women's time in the household was not linear
but cyclical-cleaning, sleeping, and birthing, where nothing new is created, just
recreated. Kristeva's women's time is a reflection of Martin's reproductive processes. In
1980, Kristeva stated that women's protest must be more than for the equality of rights,
but must consist "in demanding that attention be paid to the subjective, particularly that
an individual represents in the social order, of course, but also and above all in relation to
what essentially differentiates that individual which is the individual's sexual difference"
(Guberman, 1996, p. 116). What distinguishes women from men is not just biological,
but it is also the social and symbolic orders that create the dimensions of a larger system.
Kristeva suggests that "women's demands cannot be met by identifying with the system
or by asking the system to identify with them" (McAfee, 2004, p. 96).
After 1968, feminists looked to clarify the differences between men and women
in respect to power, language, and meaning (Kristeva, 1995). While the first generation
diminished difference, the second generation began to emphasize revaluing all that is
feminine. This included a rejection of male linear timeline and a return to cyclical time
and an embrace of motherhood but with continued demands for equality. The danger of
the second generation's revolt lies in the fact that sometimes, "by fighting against evil,
we reproduce it, this time at the core of the social bond the bond between men and
women" (Kristeva, 1995, p. 214). Creating a counterculture leads to a kind of reverse
sexism that erases women's individuality.
With a rejection of the essentialist first and second waves of feminism, came the
embrace of poststructural theory throughout the 1980s and 1990s. This essentialist
construction of feminine subjectivity "gave way to one celebrating identity politics based
on kaleidoscopic difference and diversity, hybridity and multiplicity" (Luke, 2001,
p. 11). The intention of the third generation is to "combine the sexual with the symbolic
in order to discover first the specificity of the feminine and then the specificity of each
woman" (Kristeva, 1995, p. 210). This generation gives balance to the reproductive and
productive desires of women where they can reconcile the need to have children and a
career. Women can be "both reproducers of the species and producers of culture"
(McAfee, 2004, p. 100). In the first two generations, the choice always seemed to be the
self-abnegating activity of motherhood versus the self-affirming activity of culture. Now
If maternity is to be guilt-free, this journey needs to be undertaken without
masochism and without annihilating one's affective, intellectual, and professional
personality, either. In this way, maternity becomes a true creative act, something
that we have not yet been able to imagine. (Kristeva, 1995, p. 220)
The goal is to internalize the rivalries of the difference thus celebrating the individualism
of each person's identity that "patches together a diversity of ethnic, regional, sexual,
professional, and political identifications" (McAfee, 2004, p. 102). This practice is
consistent with the poststructural focus of Kristeva on diversity of identification and the
relativity of our symbolic and biologic selves. In conclusion, the third generation is less
about gaining rights and more about gains for all humans. This rejection of
metanarratives and universalisms coincides with the cultural changes evident in
globalization (Luke, 2001). Instead of "patriarchy" being the culprit for oppression of
women, the responsibility lies equally on all human beings who are both equally guilty
and equally capable of bringing about a new ethics (McAfee, 2004, p. 102). Gender
difference becomes not "masochistic or constraining, but, rather, productive and freeing
for women and their sexuality" (McAfee, 2004, p. 103). Rather than focusing on the
hierarchies of male versus female, the goal is to recognize our internal rivalries and
sweep off our side of the street first.
Kristeva's important works included a book about political philosopher Hannah
Arendt, who analyzed the life of Jewess Rahel Varnhagen. Rahel (1771-1833) was a
product of Jewish social affluence, benefiting from the philo-Semitism of Fredric II of
Prussia and later facing the hostility of the nobility class. The new regime of 1810,
which professed Enlightenment ideals of equality, also rekindled latent anti-Semitism.
Rahel was passionate about literature and philosophy and maintained one of the most
fascinating romantic salons, frequented by such famous people as Prince Louis-
Ferdinand of Russia, the Humbolt brothers, and even Goethe. Kristeva's book, Hannah
Arendt, attempted to show aspects of "the manner in which assimilation to the
intellectual and social life of the environment works out concretely in the history of an
individual's life, thus shaping a personal destiny" (Kristeva, 2001, p. 53). Arendt
interpreted Rahel's fate as a view of a "failed assimilation" (p. 53). This failure was
from the perspective of being Jewish in a cultural era of Catholicism and Enlightenment
universalism. Arendt suggested that Rahel's struggle against the fact of being born
Jewish became a struggle against herself, and that Rahel's illusion is her belief that her
guests "authenticate her even though in truth they are utterly indifferent to her" (p. 57).
Rahel eventually changed to a German name and was baptized; however, all her social
actions failed to integrate her into the German nation, and panicked by her lack of
assimilation, Rahel asked, "Can one get entirely away from what one truly is?" (Arendt,
1958/1997, p. 243)
This psychosocial depiction demonstrates the impact when people deviate outside
the cultural norm. Women in leadership positions assimilate into a masculine world. An
example of the effects of assimilation is revealed by professional women who suffer from
internal conflict regarding family obligations. Women decide whether to prioritize career
over other pursuits such as motherhood and caring for their family, choices that do not
traditionally impact men. Kristieva's contribution on how women negotiate power and
the effect on their identities is important to the context of this study.
Research has traditionally been conducted primarily by men, and the "results to
some extent bear the imprint of certain male-tinted assumptions, priorities, foci and even
scientific ideas and methodologies" (Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2001, p. 212). The
dominating rules of science are part of patriarchal domination, and a feminist standpoint
of research is legitimate by "women's concrete experiences of discrimination and
repression" (Alvesson & Skoldberg, p. 230). "Feminism as a Western social movement
has had a profound influence on the daily lives of women and men by challenging
patriarchy at every turn" (St. Pierre & Pillow, 2000, pg. 2). Discrimination and
patriarchy influence the environment that women leaders must negotiate.
Introduction: Epistemology and Theoretical Framework
The literature review provided an overview of feminism and its historical
foundations that has formed systems of power and knowledge in educational institutions.
The ambiguous nature of feminist poststructuralism requires a review of the theoretical
foundations and methods that form the basis of this research. Poststructuralism adopts
difference, heterogeneity, fragmentation, shifting identities of subjects and the absence of
certainty; there is a lack of decidability of interpretation (Schwandt, 2001). This
theoretical perspective embraces abstract methodologies such as rhizoanalysis and
deconstruction as research strategies. Although poststructuralism lacks the definitiveness
of modernist approaches, the methodology and methods using this perspective can be
There are four elements in developing a research proposal. The researcher must
use appropriate methodologies and methods that are justified in the theoretical
perspective. Epistemology (how we know what we know) is the theory of knowledge
embedded in the theoretical perspective and thus in the methodology (Crotty, 1998).
Modernism has great faith in the ability to reason to discover absolute forms of
knowledge, while postmodern approaches refuse all appearance of essentialist
orientations of modernist thought. The quest for certainty, characteristic of an objectivist
epistemology, has not only been found wanting but also is thought to be a futile and
dysfunctional search. A subjectivist epistemology versus objectivism is committed to
"ambiguity, relativity, fragmentation, particularity, and discontinuity" (Crotty, 1998, p.
185). Hargreaves (1994) suggests that using subjectivism involves "denying the
existence of foundational knowledge on the grounds that no knowable social reality
exists beyond the signs of language, image, and discourse" (p. 39). Language forges the
immersion of discourse. The key to using a poststructuralist approach is characterizing
the differences found in signs of language, image and discourse.
Poststructuralism emerged out of an intellectual movement that was dissatisfied
with the confines of structuralism, a movement based on Saussurean linguistics, and is
linked to the work of the French writers, Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida, and Kristeva (Craib,
1992; Grogan, 2003; Sarup, 1988). Post-structualists believe that, "language, meaning,
social institutions and the self are destabilized" (Palmer, 1998, p. 145). Discourse is the
vehicle that guides this process. Discourse is described as an intersubjective
phenomenon that "is not a direct product of subjectivity and has a constituent role in the
production of the symbolic systems that govern human existence" (Macey, 2000, p.100).
This definition of discourse was based on Foucault's discursive formation, which he
described as "homogeneous fields of enunciative regularities" (Foucault, 1972/2002, p.
117). For Foucault (1972/2002), "relations of force and power are involved at every
level of a discursive formation; ... knowledge is always a form of power" (p. 101).
Discursive practices are a
body of anonymous, historical rules, always determined in the time and space that
have defined a given period, and for a given social, economic, geographical, or
linguistic area, the conditions of operation of the enunciative function. (Foucault,
Deconstructionism is "a poststructural strategy for reading texts that unmasks the
supposed 'truth' or meaning of text by undoing, reversing, and displacing taken-for-
granted binary opposition that structure texts (e.g., right over wrong, subject over object,
reason over nature, men over women, speech over writing, and reality over appearance)"
Schwandt, 2001, p. 203-4). While there are inherent dualisms in the text, deconstruction
destabilizes the binaries. Instead of a hierarchical pyramid where the top tier oppresses
the others, the focus is the contextual interaction between individuals and institutions.
This study examined the concept of women's leadership using rhizoanalysis and
then deconstructing unfolded binaries. The rhizome "has no beginning or end; it is
always in the middle, between things, intervening, intermezzo" (Deleuze & Guattari,
1980/1987, p. 25). A rhizome is an underground tuber that diverges into new places.
A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains,
organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social
struggles. A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, no
only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive. (Deleuze &
Guattari, 1980/1987, p. 7)
Rhizoanalyisis emphasizes on how texts function outside of themselves as they connect
with other contexts, beliefs, and readers. The image is of the nomad deterritorializing
consciously structured striated space. Deleuze and Guattari use these spaces together;
"smooth space is constantly being translated, transversed into a striated space; striated
space is constantly being reversed, returned into a smooth space" (1980/1987, p. 474).
Nomadic researchers travel to smooth spaces as they always possess a "greater power of
deterritorialization than the striated" (p. 480). As a researcher, my personal experiences
and readings connected the findings into new areas of thought. St. Pierre explained that,
"a nomadic ethnographer speeding within connections and conduits and multiplicities
might gnaw a smooth space to extend her territory" (St. Pierre & Pillow, 2000, p. 264).
The image of the fold helps the researcher think differently (St. Pierre, 1997).
The fold disrupts the notion of interiority, since it defines "the inside as the operation of
the outside" (Deleuze, 1986/1988, p. 97). The folds function is to avoid the simplistic
reversal of binaries, and its function is to "avoid distinction, opposition, fatal binarity"
(Badiou, 1994, p. 61). The fold seeks the middle and avoids extremes and opposites.
Although the participants distinguished their binaries, my task was to search for
contradictions and discrepancies in the text as they collapsed on each other. "What
matters is folding, unfolding, refolding" (Deleuze, 1988/1993, p. 137). In this context,
this study looked for how the identities of the participants unfolded within the
hierarchical binaries of the social strata.
Derrida expanded these post-structural concepts with deconstruction. "The very
meaning and mission of deconstruction is to show that things-texts, institutions,
traditions, societies, beliefs, and practices of whatever size and sort you need-do not
have definable meanings and determinable missions, that they are always more than any
mission would impose, that they exceed the boundaries they currently occupy" (Caputo,
1997, p. 31). Derrida believed that logocentric reasoning privileges one of two sides of
binary opposites, and that, "the prioritizing of one pole over the other displays mere
cultural manipulations of power, and to show that, under deconstructive scrutiny, these
opposition break down and collapse into each other" (Palmer, 1998, p. 134). For
example, democracies are constantly evolving and may represent the best form of
government, but they are corrupted by money, politicians, and the media, often
undermining the poor and defenseless via the hypocrisy under the guise of reform
(Caputo, 1997). Deconstruction seeks to question those revered things by exposing the
most venerable to attack. Deconstruction is "nourished by a dream of the invention of
the other, of something to come, something absolutely unique and idiomatic, the
invention, the in-coming, of an absolute surprise" (Caputo, 1997, p. 70). Such resistance
is deconstruction's mission. Deconstruction desires "straight" men to get in touch with
their feminine side, and "straight" women get in touch with their masculine side (Caputo,
1997, p. 104). In Derrida's view, "male" and "female" are fixed containers, prisons,
trapping men no less than women within one place, one role, closing off the possibility of
"innumerable" genders, not just two" (Caputo, 1997, p. 104-5). While feminism
provides a "necessary moment of "reversal," a salutary overturning that purges the
system of its present masculinist hegemony, it must give way to "displacement," and
"gender bending" in which the whole "masculine/feminine schema is skewed" (Caputo,
1997, p. 105). So Derrida's term difference, is the interplay of difference where as
researchers "search for meaning, therefore, we are sent to difference, and meaning is
deferred" (Crotty, 1998, p. 207). Differance captures the twin significance of difference
and deferral. Every element of discourse is bears "the trace within it of other elements in
the chain, so that everywhere there are differences of differences and traces of traces"
(Derrida, 1981, p. 26).
Research Method: Interviewing
The method used to gain understanding of participants' identity construction was
the interview. We are in an "interview society" (Silverman, 1998, p. 126), where mass
media, researchers, and service providers generate endless information through
interviewing. Historically, individuality did not exist in a recognizable social form
(Gubrium & Holstein, 2003). After WWII, the interview changed with the emergence of
the standardized survey where individuals became accustomed to offering information to
strangers. It was recognized that each person had a voice, thus there was a
"democratization of opinion" (Gubrium & Holstein, 2003, p. 22). This view stemmed
from William James who, in 1892, noted that every individual has a sense of self that is
owned and controlled by him, even if the self is socially formulated and interpersonally
responsive (Holstein & Gubrium, 2003). All interviews are interactional conversations
that vary from highly structured survey interviews to free-flowing exchanges (Silverman,
The outcome to research on the democratization of opinion through the survey
was part of a trend of "increased surveillance in every day life" (Gubrium & Holstein,
2003, p. 24). Foucault's studies on the discursive formation changed the concept of
individuality. The institutional contexts ranging from the medical clinic to the prison
showed us how the "technologies of the self" transformed the view of subjectivity.
Subjectivity suggests a morally responsible agent behind the participant's words and
actions, such as the family, community or institution (Gubrium & Holstein, 2003).
Foucault's "technologies of the self" are the concrete, socially and historically located
institutional practices which constructs our individuality. Postmodernists treat
interviewing as a place in which knowledge is constructed, and suggest that the interview
is not a neutral "conduit," but a "place of producing reportable knowledge itself"
(Silverman, 1998, p. 114).
The postmodern perspective suggests that the researcher and participants have
multiple intentions and desires, some of which are conscious and some of which are not.
The poststructural perspective sees language as slippery and ambiguous; sign and
signification are only loosely linked (Saussure, 1949/1983). What a question or answer
means to the interviewee may change, and what occurs in a specific interview is
contingent on the specifics of individuals, place, and time (Mishler, 1986). Changing the
interviewer changes the results, even if the new interviewer asks the same questions.
Scheurich (1995) agrees that interviewing is characterized by asymmetries of
power, but suggests an alternative view. With the power inequities, there is resistance as
described by critical theorists such as Apple, Giroux, Weiler, and Freire. However, the
less powerful "find innumerable, creative, even powerful ways to resist inequity"
(Weiler, 1988, p. 21). Weiler suggests that "individuals are not simply acted upon by
abstract 'structures' but negotiate, struggle, and create meaning of their own" (p. 21).
Interviewees control part of the interview and "use the interviewer as much as the
interviewer uses the interviewees" (Scheurich, 1995, p. 247). Scheurich replaces the
critical binary with an open-ended third space he calls "chaos." Resistance persists as
long as dominance persists, therefore "in the interview the aims of the researcher may not
be met by the participants" (Scheurich, 1995, p. 248).
The interview interaction is a complex play of conscious and unconscious
thoughts, feelings, fears, and needs on the part of both the interviewer and interviewee
that cannot be categorized-no stable "reality" can be represented (p. 249). This
interpretive moment occurs throughout the research process as "a plethora of baggage"
(p. 249). This interpretive moment is why a reasonable comprehensive subjectivity
statement regarding this "baggage" is necessary. During the interview with women
administrators, there were allowances for the "uncontrollable play of power within the
interaction," (p. 250) and the juxtaposition of power that occurred. Although they have
power as given by their positions, the power interchange was equalized by the presence
of my tape recorder and their "knowing" that my analysis might be different than their
own perspective of themselves.
Participants and Setting
Ten women administrators were interviewed in their offices on campus at a
research one university in the Southeastern United States. Interviewees were selected
using the criterion sampling method on the basis of their length of service as
administrators and willingness to participate. Interviewees all had been in a supervisory
position in higher education for at least three years. Five interviewees were full deans
and five were associate deans. Five women were from historically male-dominated fields
and the five others from female-dominated fields and/or colleges. A male-versus
female-dominated field is defined as a college within the university system with greater
than 50% male or female faculty respectively. Table 1 depicts the participants'
pseudonyms and general attributes.
Table 1. Participants' pseudonyms and general attributes
Pseudonyms College Dean or Associate
Abe MD Associate
Bennett FD Associate
Dare MD Dean
Dunlap FD Associate
Emmett FD Dean
Highe MD Dean
Langer FD Dean
Sasser MD Associate
Vitalia MD Dean
Wilson FD Associate
Confidentiality was adhered to according to the University of Florida's IRB
guidelines and policies. Participants' privacy and anonymity was respected and
protected by the researcher by using pseudonyms in all writings. Correspondence was
limited to direct contact with participants via mail, telephone, or e-mail. These
procedures reflect the researcher's sensitivity toward interviewees and prevented any
harm from their participation in this study. I had no previous contact with the
interviewees to avert prejudgment and to create an unbiased presence during the
Data Collection Methods
Using a semi-structured interview approach, campus-based interviews ranged
from 45 to 100 minutes in duration. Written consent was obtained. All tapes were
transcribed by professional transcribers, and then reviewed and corrected by the
researcher. The transcriptions were member checked by the participants for validation
purposes. Interview questions included the following:
* Can you give me some background information?
* What made you a leader?
* What is leadership?
* How has your self been changed as a result of your leadership?
* What differences does being a woman make in your leadership?
* Describe the influences of power on your leadership?
* How do you use and produce power?
* How has your leadership changed?
* Describe a situation that best illustrates your leadership.
* Is there anything that you would like to add?
Validity and Trustworthiness
Validity has also been referred to as "trustworthiness" (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000,
p. 230). Means of assessing trustworthiness or research validity is, however, an issue
that should be thought about during research design as well as in the midst of data
collection, as it is often addressed in one's research proposal. Some tools used to
enhance the validity in this study included triangulation, peer review and debriefing,
negative case analysis, clarification of researcher bias, member checking, search for
negative cases, rich, thick description, and external audit (Creswell, 1998). However, a
feminist poststructural perspective requires unique considerations. Richardson (1997)
proposed a transgressive form of validity by examining the properties of a crystal in a
I propose that the central imaginary for "validity" for postmodernist texts is not
the triangle-a rigid, fixed, two-dimensional object. Rather the central imaginary
is the crystal, which combines symmetry and substance with an infinite variety of
shapes, substances, transmutations, multidimensionalities, and angles of
approach. Crystals grow, change, alter, but are not amorphous. Crystals are
prisms that reflect externalities and refract within themselves, creating different
colors, patterns, arrays, casting off in different directions.... Crystallization,
without losing structure, deconstructs the traditional idea of "validity" (we feel
how there is no single truth, we see how texts validate themselves); and
crystallization provides us with a deepened, complex, thoroughly partial
understanding of the topic. Paradoxically, we know more and doubt what we
know. (p. 92)
Lather (1993) also seeks a transgressivee" validity that is disruptive for the status
quo which purposes to "rupture validity as a regime of truth, to displace its historical
inscription via a catalytic validity or a proliferation of counter-practices of authority
that take the crisis of representation into account" (p. 674). Lather also posed validty as a
Derridean rigor/rhizomatic validity, "via relay, multiple openings; networks, and
complexities of problematics" and a voluptuous/situated validity which "embodies a
situated, partial tentativeness," "constructs authority via practices of engagement and
self-reflexivity," and "brings ethics and epistemology together" (p. 686).
The crisis of representation conceives that no interpretive account can capture
lived experience, which combined with the crisis of legitimation challenges the authority
of the interpretive text, creating a crisis of praxis-conclusion (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000).
The definition of this last crisis is that if society is only and always a text, no definitive
conclusions can be made to create social and political reform. This triple crisis occurred
in the 1980s where validity verification procedures such as Creswell's were retheorized
to include those of Richardson and Lather. These ideas challenge beliefs in each social
science discipline about the frameworks that guide empirical research.
My subjective reflexivity influenced this study by my own experience as a
reorganized manager in the for-profit healthcare sector and by the 2003 suicide of my
sister, a clinical neurologist, who failed to gain tenure in a top-tier medical school. These
experiences disrupted my previous views of the leadership "regime of truth" (Foucault,
1984, p. 74) and provided impetus for this study. My interpretations of the data were
transformed by my own bereavement, but my own management experiences also
unfolded the complexities of leadership. As the fold seeks the middle and avoids
extremes and opposites, my task was to search for contradictions and discrepancies in the
text as they collapsed on each other. However, the purpose of this study was clear; I
have been driven to understand how women negotiate power in large hierarchical
Finding the patterns of discourse, subjectivity, resistance, power, and knowledge
was the purpose for this feminist poststructural study. There has been little written about
women administrators in higher education using this theoretical framework.
Poststructuralism lends a perspective of questioning, emphasizes the need for the
understanding between power and knowledge, and focuses on the microhistories of
individual lives. This study unfolded the binaries within the text, then these binaries
were deconstructed to seek the path through the middle, thus expanding the
understanding of leadership to include different dimensionalities and counter-practices of
Binary opposition (men/women, best/worst) are common in modem society.
Deleuze and Guattari (1987) see humans as assigned to different strata in play, work,
social structure, and household tasks. Organizations compartmentalize themselves into
an entire bureaucracy that is rigidly segmented and centralized and resembles an
arborescent hierarchical system that disciplines and controls the appendages (or
divisions) attached to it. These appendages represent personnel with a multiplicity of
departmental duties that interconnect together as a rhizome. St. Pierre (2000) stated that,
"it is the outside that folds us into identity, and we can never control the forces of the
outside" (p. 260). My interest focused on how these women constructed, "their
subjectivitities within the limits and possibilities of the discourses and cultural practices
that are available to them" (p. 258).
In research, the question commonly raised is "What did you find?" The
researcher is then compelled to discuss his or her research in search of opposition in a
pyramidal structure of results. I struggled for months to avoid these structured striated
spaces that pervade the dominant positivistic realm of scientific inquiry. However, I
repeatedly returned to sedentary, striated spaces that are coded, bounded, and limited
(St. Pierre, 2000) using participants' terms such as "define," "most," and "typical" to
produce categories. As a former administrator, I identified with the language of the
participants, and so when analyzing the interviews I was drawn to categorize
participants' distinguishing characteristics. The typical interviewee was Caucasian, had
children, was divorced, and was remarried in a stable relationship. Several had married
young and then, as their education advanced, had divorced and now had a very
supportive spouse. The text illustrated that the identities of these women as "leaders"
were embedded in the masculine discursive voice. However, this type of analysis of
these inside/outside binaries led to failure when attempting to find the deconstructive
"middle." This "practice of failure" transformed, my "impossibility into possibility
where a failed account occasions new kinds of positioning" (Lather, 1996, p. 3). Over
the course of several months, I slowly decoded the striated spaces and realized "smooth
space and striated space do not exist in opposition but in mixture" (St. Pierre, 2000,
p. 264). Deleuze and Guattari use these spaces together; "smooth space is constantly
being translated, transversed into a striated space; striated space is constantly being
reversed, returned into a smooth space" (1980/1987, p. 474). This section will describe
how the participants' identities comply, deviate, and shift in their social realms as leaders
in their organizations.
Using the rhizome to analyze the meaning of the textual language extends the
boundaries of what is considered knowledge. Julia Kristeva, a psychoanalyst and
poststructuralist, also made a unique contribution in considering the speaking subject and
their unconscious experience and compared that to the pressures of other social structures
(McAfee, 2004). In this study, women deans are shaped by their subjectivities, which
include their culture, relationships, language, history, and contexts. Kristeva believed
that linguistically the signifying process included the semiotic, which is the extraverbal
way in which bodily energy, including the subject's drives, is reflected through language.
Because of my interest in poststructural theories, I've used the texts of these deans to
explore these "women's arts of existence, or practices of the self, the things they do every
day that make them who they are" (St. Pierre, 2005, p. 1). The textual focus was to
consider the speaking subjects and determine their unconscious experiences in the social
structure of educational leadership.
Deterritorialized identities, becoming masculine, becoming feminine, becoming
powerful, becoming powerless, becoming stereotypes, and becoming difference-"that is
what multiplicity is" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 32). The "becoming" multiplicities
are real "even if that something other it becomes is not" (p. 32). For clarification, a
becoming lacks a subject distinct from itself. Deleuze and Guattari compare it to the
rhizome in this way:
Becoming is a rhizome, not a classificatory or genealogical tree. Becoming is
certainly not imitating, or identifying with something: neither is it regressing-
progressing; neither is it corresponding, establishing corresponding relations;
neither is it producing, producing a filiation or producing through filiation.
Becoming is a verb with a consistency all its own; it does not reduce to, lead back
to, "appearing," "being," "equaling," or "producing." (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987,
This excerpt demonstrates that it is easier to understand what "becoming" is not,
rather than what it is. A line of becoming "is not defined by points that it connects, or by
points that compose it; ... it passes between points, it comes up through the middle ...
(and) has only a middle" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 293). The lines of becoming
are the shades of gray between black and white-not either/or, but the "middle" of any
extreme. The "middle" is a part of each which unfolds to the next "middle." The
rhizome for this section is found in the Appendix. Because of my subjectivity related to
the term "leadership," the image of the fold helped me view the leadership binaries
differently. The fold disrupts the notion of interiority since it defines "the inside as the
operation of the outside" (Deleuze, 1986/1988, p. 97). The fold's function is to avoid the
simplistic reversal of binaries. "What matters is folding, unfolding, refolding" (Deleuze,
1988/1993, p. 137). In this section, I examined how the identities of the participants
unfolded between the hierarchical binaries of the social strata.
Identity of the Masculine
In a social strata of the masculine binary, Porter (1989) viewed leaders as people
who created followers' roles, rewarded proficiency, negotiated obstacles, promoted
interaction, and created coalitions for institutional problem solving. The deans used these
characteristics to describe themselves even at a young age. As children these women
organized their friends to do all kinds of activities. Most were outgoing, but even if they
were shy individuals, they had an incessant need to coordinate tasks to achieve some goal
-and they loved doing it.
One dean in a male-dominated college described this trait this way:
Given a set of circumstances, I can organize people, I can get us to do things as a
team, that's what I like to do, and in the hopes of achieving something and I think
that "piece is always important." You know I wasn't going to be a baton twirler
if we couldn't be state champions. ... At the same (time) ... if you don't want to
practice, then you're not going to be on my team because you're not going to
share that dream of being a state champion.
The language of the text was filled with the masculine discourse of achievement and
hierarchy-of rising higher than others. Even in a traditional female-dominated activity
of baton twirling, this participant desired her teammates to join in her dream of being
state champions or face exclusion. Years later, she became a dean of a male-dominated
college. Another dean illustrated this need for achievement as "looking to go up" with
regard to her career. Associate Dean Abe described her ascension into leadership as
"sometimes you have to just pick up the ball and run yourself." This text resembles the
game metaphors that Joseph Crowley (1994), in a historical study on college presidents,
associated with leadership including words such as titan, hero, gladiator, and quarterback.
The deans organized others toward a goal to be the best in whatever they were doing. If
others did not have the same goal, they needed to go elsewhere.
Identity of the Feminine
These women rose to the top of their professional organizations early in their
careers and honed their leadership skills. Dean Highe spoke of being on, "campus wide
committees on budget and personnel and planning .. you know, I loved it." This "love"
of organization and planning was a common descriptor used by the deans. These
women's use of the term "love" implied a feminine descriptive of their enthusiasm for
their roles that pervaded the masculine discourse. Another dean described her
interactions with people as searching the "environment of what's the sort of emotional
content, what's resonating against" the situation. Her scrutiny of the emotional aspects
of situations, and then the use of the language of "resonate" represents an application of
feminine language into the text. Another dean perceived her position as a "service" job
where she was promoted because of her drive toward the "greater good." Feminine
descriptors like "service" and "greater good" are interposed within the masculine
leadership discourse of these deans.
Subjectivity stems from the concept that discourses systematically "form the
objects of which they speak" (Sarup, 1988, p. 70). Therefore, a man or woman who
becomes an administrator is shaped or subjectified by that discourse. These women used
predominately masculine language with some inclusion of feminine language. Even the
deans in women-dominated colleges were surrounded by male-mentors who directed
them. Although these women grew up during the time of the second wave of the
women's movement, their primary mentors and predecessors were male. These women's
language reflected the discourse of their environment as the outside folded them into
their identities. These women constructed "their subjectivitities within the limits and
possibilities of the discourses and cultural practices that are available to them" (St. Pierre,
2000, p. 258).
Identity of the Father
These women identified their families as an important part of their cultural
practices. Dean Langer talked about how fortunate she was because her family
"celebrates" her successes by putting her press releases on their refrigerators. This kind
of encouragement from their families sustained the deans' enthusiasm about their work.
Although these women spoke of children, husbands, and other relatives, most gave an
account about their parents. Regarding this Dean Langer stated,
it maybe has gotten me into trouble sometimes. I'm a bit too outspoken. ... I
actually think it came from a combination of my mother and my father. Because
I can see parts of their personalities that I got and I'm not sort of a clone of either
one of them, but I got some, remarkably positive characteristics from each of
them and I was lucky in that regard.
This dean believed that her strength comes from positive characteristics from both her
parents. Her identity is not cloned, but is a mixture of theirs. Although she apologized
initially for her boldness, she then described this attribute as "remarkably positive" even
as her husband recoiled. Her identity was not entirely shaped by her immediate
environment, but evolved from her parents.
Of their parents, these women spoke at length about their fathers as their first
mentors who "believed that education was the ticket to a better life." These women
understood how fortunate they were to have fathers who believed in education equally
for their daughters as well as for their sons. Dean Vitalia described her father in this
My father was my first mentor. ... He did treat my sister and I different than he
treated our brother. (Laughter) It's just he couldn't help it. You know? ... But,
Daddy was very, always very, very encouraging and supportive and ... whatever
you put your mind to, you can do.
Dean Vitalia attributed her success to her father, but recognized that her father treated her
brother differently. When she decided to go into education, he remarked that it was a
"good" profession for women. Her father encouraged her to develop her career and
become well-educated; however, he still had gender roles tied to careers. Women deans
at the turn of the 20th century historically had strong relationships with their fathers and
other male relatives who were willing educate their daughters during a time when college
attendance was not commonplace for women; these relationships gave these early
pioneers alliances for their leadership positions (Brown, 2001). The importance of
fathers was evident in this associate dean's story.
And I adored my father. My father was wonderful as far as encouraging me. He,
he was the one who really supported women. ... He'd become an officer in the
Navy but he'd never graduated from high school. And so recognized, he had
always felt inferior, being in the position and not having the educational
background. That's why education was so important to him and why he was
willing to pay for me to go to (professional) school.
This dean wore her father's ring during the interview, and reported that the "foundation"
for her life was her father. Her mother's role as a homemaker annoyed her in her early
adult years during the feminist 70s. Later, she realized that her mother's job was to care
of her father, which helped her gain an acceptance of her mother's familial role. This
was one of the rare moments that a mother was mentioned in the text. The women's
movement gave these deans other choices, but their lives were incongruent with those of
their mothers and a source of conflict. These deans lacked women role models at all
levels as they ascended into their careers, and their early identities were imprinted by
their fathers. Thus, their interactions within the masculine discourse were influenced by
their male relationships.
On the other hand, a supportive family did not always make a leader. Sometimes
their negative experiences in the family gave them leadership abilities. One dean
reported that she learned responsibility early in her life because of caring for her infirm
mother that compelled her to "take charge of the household." This duty was forced on
her also because of being the first-born child. One dean expressed extreme dislike for
her father, and this disdain influenced her leadership. Associate Dean Bennett's father
was controlling, and in reaction she was determined never to be like him.
Well, you know, I still bristle at that word power. ... I don't think I've ever had
anyone be dictatorial so I'm trying to think where it comes from and it probably
comes from the family. My father was a career military. We had to say, yes, sir,
no, sir, without question. If we didn't we were slapped, physically. // And so, as
soon as I was 18 I left home. I wasn't gonna be told what to do nor was I gonna
fit into a box that my father thought I should fit into.
Her reaction to her father had a big impact on her leadership and her perceptions of
power. Dean Bennett associated the term "power" with "bristle" in very strong language
that signified her dictatorial father. She stated that her style of leadership evolved in
opposition to what her father represented to her. In another text, Dean Bennett was
drawn to administration because of the "power position" where people "would take my
call because they knew who I was," and which she called "fun." She liked being able to
select faculty and the power that comes with that authority. Surprisingly, Dean Bennett
later refers to herself as a "control freak," a term that is reminiscent of her father's
control of her. Perhaps unknowingly, she created in herself what she disdained in her
father. The striated space of the importance of her father was reversed to a smooth space
but then unconsciously returned.
Identity of the Quintessence
The American Heritage Dictionary defines "quintessence" as the "purest, most
essential element of a thing" (1994, p. 677). Although these women were influenced by
their environment, their journey into leadership was not encouraged by their male role
models, but unfolding extensions of themselves. Only one participant told her dean that,
"someday, I would like to be dean," as she was "looking to go up." This sole participant
knew she desired the deanship early in her career. Although these women in this study
were ambitious, most did not set out to become deans or even leaders. Another
interviewee stated, "I didn't come into leadership by design... and sometimes people
with voices of change move into leadership positions because that's where you can
probably have the biggest impact." The segmented "leadership" discourse is clear in the
text and being an "agent of change" thrust her into leadership, but these women moved
into their roles by happenstance.
Dean Highe explained her evolution into the deanship. She involved herself in
professional organizations outside her academic job and soon realized she belonged in
I was a department chair for 4 years and I knew the day I became, within the first
week that I became a department chair I realized I had waited too long to do that
job .... But this job is really fun because it taps into all kinds of creative abilities
as well as organizational and administrative abilities because this is the level, at
least for me, other people have different levels, for me this has been the level
where I really have had a chance to make a difference in ways that you can
ultimately see the impact.
Dean Highe loved the diversity of responsibilities and the creativity it entailed, and was
motivated by the opportunity to create an impact. These participants used masculine
descriptive language like "impact" and "making a difference" with regard to their
motivation to become leaders. This language corresponded to the productive directional
desires of these women which have traditionally been the realm of men. However, the
deans also reversed the masculine discourse with words such as "love," "creative," and
"fun" that illustrated a feminine contribution to the discourse. Initially, Dean Highe had
never thought about wanting a leadership position, and no one helped her identify her
potential early in her career or suggested that she enter administration, not surprising
given the patriarchal nature of higher education. This participant was not directly
mentored into leadership; however, she did the tasks that she loved doing and that
unfolded her role. While these women had male mentors, they were not mentored into
the leadership and yet they still became deans in an intensely male-dominated
environment. Dean Highe seemed to have never reflected about being a women dean
until this interview. Her concern was the job and her college, not the fight to get there.
As with all of the interviewees, Dean Highe's identity as a leader started before
she became a leader. Dean Highe, like other deans, did not "set out to become" a leader,
and this text implies her attitude regarding what "made her" a leader.
Other people putting a label on it. ... I just got an idea in my mind about how I
wanted to live my life, what I wanted to do with it, how I wanted to relate to other
people in the world and at the end of the day, people, you know, tell me you are a
leader, what you do as a leader .... But it isn't because I set out to become "a
leader." I think that's an illusive title in some ways anyway just by every leader
I've seen or known is different from every other one // and every week now when
I go to a bookstore and there's yet another book on leadership, there's yet another
variation on a theme, another definition on how to be a leader, what a leader is,
and there are some commonalities I mean that seem to be in the definitions and
descriptions of leadership, but it wasn't that I set out to do it.
These deans did not read leadership books to look for their leadership identities. Dean
Highe recognized the illusive nature of the title, and the differing leadership styles of
those leaders around her. Her responses were very ambiguous regarding stereotyping
leaders into male and female types. This text suggested that she was not trained for
leadership but emerged into her own identity. She had a vision of what she wanted to be
and became that. For these women, "being" came before "doing;" and leadership is a
"label" for what they were already doing. In reflection, these women were people who
organized others, they were surrounded by male role models who encouraged education
but not ascension into leadership, but it was the essential elements of their identities that
unfolded them into leaders. The striated spaces translated into smooth spaces.
Identity of the Third Generation
Dean Highe used a very masculine discourse in her responses; however, she also
added multiple dimensions and complexities beyond a segmented reality. The third
generation of feminism represents balance to the productive and reproductive desires of
women. Women can be both "reproducers of the species and producers of culture," both
the body and the social (McAfee, 2004, p. 100). In the first two generations, the choice
always seemed to be the self-abnegating activity of motherhood versus the self-affirming
activity of culture. Kristeva spoke of the three generations of feminism that are more a
mindset than a chronological order. Before 1968, the first generation of women wanted
equality with men, the second embraced the feminine, and the third focused on the
balance between the productive and reproductive desires of women. Dean Highe's
language also reflected complexities beyond the masculine with words such as
"creative," "love," and introduced ways of creating a feminine balance. In a society
where the masculine model of leadership permeates every institution, these women
invented their own smooth spaces and produced innovative ways to balance their lives.
These women spoke of the importance of family relationships, and Dean Vitalia
presented a different description of success:
I can give you examples of successful moments. ... I would say that my, the, my
greatest accomplishment in life is my children. It's not, it's, because my job and
my career is not really who I am. It's something that I do.
In the previous section, it was suggested that these women's leadership identities sprang
up from their "being." In this excerpt, Dean Vitalia separates her "doing" job from who
she is. This unfolds another dimension of her identity where she balanced her productive
and reproductive roles. These women seemed content with their personal lives, and most
spoke of being in long-term relationships at this point in their career. Those women with
children spoke proudly of them, no differently than other mothers. Their identities were
multidimensional and not preoccupied entirely with work.
However, not all women spoke of family relationships, and some were not
unhappy about being preoccupied by work. Dean Highe was content without a family
because she did not have the "pulls and the responsibilities" outside of work, and yet, she
did not feel "overly unbalanced" in her early work-life. The women's enjoyment of work
grew out of an extension of their personalities. Both Dean Vitalia and Dean Highe
expressed contentment and balance, although for different reasons. The literature often
speaks of the difficulties that women might have managing family and careers, or
portrays focused career women in a negative light (Marshal & Jones, 1990). For
example, Shultz and Easter (1997) reported that women administrators have reported
homemaking and child care as social barriers to advancement. However, these deans
enjoyed and directed their busy lives. They did not complain about their family roles;
their lives were what they wanted and were an extension of who they were as individuals.
At one point, Dean Highe described how she mentally balanced these divisions in
I'm content about, the job that I'm at, I'm never content about how well we're
doing because once you become content, then I think that contentment can
lead to a complacency that means you're not really raising the bar for what can be
gathered in. But there are two bromides that I say to myself every day, one is
nothing's perfect and then to help keep me from going nuts, the other is, nobody
can do it all.
This text represents an interchange of language between a masculine discourse of
"raising the bar" versus "contentment" which Dean Highe equated complacency. These
women used active verbs in their language such as "accomplish," and "make it happen,"
and then used language to soften the extremes to keep from "going nuts." The deans
lived in an environment of hierarchical vertical thinking, and moderated those extremes
by reminding themselves that "nobody can do it all." The language represented a folding
and unfolding of the striated binaries to the smooth space of the middle.
Dean Dare's interview was a good example of the folding and unfolding between
the productive and reproductive needs of these women. She reflected on the dichotomies
that motivated her life.
Well what drives me ... I mean I think I'm just kind of a compulsive
overachiever, just ... you know we all have those personal afflictions, but I think
what drives me in terms of being .. doing this job or any of my administrative
service oriented jobs, // I think it's just seeing the // shaping the institution or
trying to create a greater good and having the opportunity to do that in a position
that allows me to do that which would not have occurred being in a laboratory,
doing my own research.
Dean Dare described her compulsiveness for achievement as a "personal affliction;"
however, she says that administration is a service-oriented job to create a greater good.
This is reminiscent of Kirkpatrick's (1974) study of women in state legislatures where
women searched for solutions to serve the common good. When describing what drives
her, she first used the word "being" then "doing;" she does the job, but her "being" was
driven by "shaping the institution for the greater good." "Driven" represented her
productive desires that seemed to conflict with her reproductive sense of service.
The language is fraught with paradoxes: compulsive, overachiever, personal
afflictions, service-oriented, shaping the institution for the greater good. She splits her
language and thus her identity into positive and negative traits. Women being "driven"
to excel in the cultural arena conflict with women's reproductive, nurturing values
creating negative feelings. Perhaps being driven to create a "greater good" sanctions
their ambition, or an attitude of service quiets their productive desires so they can balance
the productive and reproductive portions of their lives. Dean Dare's leadership identity
was balanced by her need for practicality, impact and meaning. Her described
motivation, like the other participants, was for service and not for domination in the
These women reported that money did not motivate them but described a
motivating desire to shape their profession. Dean Dare even reports that "I don't know
that anyone would do this job for the amount of money they pay you; you have to be
driven by something 'more than that.'" During the interview, the "'more than that" was
spoken quietly as an afterthought, as if she was not sure what motivated her. Dean Dare
later laughed at not being the highest paid in her male-dominated college with a hint of
resentment. Signs of her need to achieve were always present, but balanced by her
reproductive desires. In another excerpt, Dean Dare spoke of "never in a million years"
that she would be a dean, but became one because of her motivation "toward the greater
good." This phrase is reminiscent of the unfolding journey that these women had in
becoming deans, but Dean Dare also reported that her career path was that of "just being
prepared as being asked to do things." In a male-dominated college, Dean Dare
performed tasks that men did not want to do and was motivated for "the greater good."
Associate Dean Abe from a male-dominated college was promoted because she
chaired the curriculum committee because, "I usually didn't volunteer for things, but
whenever I was asked to do something, I'd always do it." She had felt that the old
curriculum was "a disservice for our students." In the early 20th century, women who
did not see the need for suffrage sought the vote to alleviate the social ills of society.
Dean Highe echoed this emphasis on service by saying, "our first job is to make sure that
this is a really good learning experience for students." The nurturing reproductive
desires of women have historically motivated them to act for the "greater good."
Dean Vitalia echoed this sentiment of acting for the "greater good" even when it
would be detrimental to her personally:
If I see me stepping up to say something as going to possibly be detrimental to
me, but helpful for the college, then I would have, then I'd, I'll have to, I'll have
to say it, because that's my responsibility is to not be looking out for me, but to
be looking out for the good and the needs of the college. ... I think that we have
some people in positions of authority now that maybe a little too concerned about
themselves, and so they're not necessarily looking out for the greater good.
Dean Vitalia distinguishes between leaders and authority by examining their motivation;
whether they have concern for themselves or for the "greater good." The deans were
acutely aware of those in authority who they considered to be "too concerned" in regards
to themselves. Brunner (2005) reported that women superintendents were uncomfortable
using power over other people and desired empowerment for the greater good. The
motivation of these women reverberated around the reproductive desires of the feminine.
Although these women lived and functioned within striated masculine discourses,
this space was constantly reversed and shifted by their nurturing reproductive desires.
These "arts of existence, or practices of the self," were "the things they do every day that
make them who they are" (St. Pierre, 2005, p. 1). The identities of these women were an
unfolding of becoming masculine, becoming feminine, becoming their fathers, becoming
the quintessence, and a becoming of the third generation of feminism. These
deterritorialized identities represent the multiplicities of these women. As their
"identities becoming" passed through the middle of each of these strata, the "line of
becoming" unfolded into leadership. In the previous section, I examined how these
women's identities sprang up from their "being." In the next section, I will examine the
intimate unfolding of their identities into their perspectives on leadership in more detail.
The terms "leadership" and the closely related "management" are segmented in
the masculine discursive voice. Thus in the hierarchical structure, the female voice is
subservient to the male voice; masculine language overshadows the feminine. Deleuze
and Guattari (1987) suggest that the question is not whether the status of women is
"better or worse, but the type of organization from which that status results" (p. 210). In
place of an oppressive hierarchy, the emphasis here is on the contextual interaction
between individuals and institutions.
In this section, the opposition within leadership and power and were
deconstructed from the binaries within the data. As binaries were uncovered, they
became deconstructed which "is a poststructural strategy for reading texts that unmasks
the supposed 'truth' or meaning of text by undoing, reversing, and displacing taken-for-
granted binary opposition that structure texts (e.g., right over wrong, subject over object,
reason over nature, men over women, speech over writing, and reality over appearance)"
(Schwandt, 2001, p. 203-4). "Leadership becoming" has unfolded between the
masculine and feminine, power and powerlessness, authority and service, stereotype and
difference, and resistance and adaptability. In the final section, I examined the binaries
drawn by the participants, and how they also blurred them.
Unfolding the Masculine
Each participant was asked to define "leadership." The language of the deans and
the associate deans exemplified a managerial, patriarchal discourse where the deans from
male-dominated professions more frequently used words such as "outcomes,"
"achievement," and "success" to describe leadership, indicative of their environment.
The dominance of masculine language corresponded with Foucault's "discursive
formation," which he described as "homogeneous fields of enunciative regularities"
(Foucault, 1972/2002, p. 117). As each participant defined "leadership," a repetitive
pattern of managerial rhetoric resounded with only slight variation.
One dean described leadership as, "getting people to do what you think they need
to do to help you accomplish your goals just because the goals are important, not because
you're just in the business of getting people to do what you want them to do." This
associate dean described leadership using language such as "productive," "business,"
"accomplishing," and "goals." Particularly for the associate deans, leading was
completing tasks, attending to details, and coercing others into the "business." Rather
than leading, associate deans' orientation was more "managing." This associate dean
from a female-dominated college illustrated the delineation between associate deans and
deans with this comment:
I'm not void of the visionary part but I don't find that of interest. And somebody
like [the dean] really finds that of interest. And so we are nicely matched,
because I love operations. I like her to say, okay, now we've got this situation.
How are we gonna make it happen?
Associate deans try to "make things happen" for their bosses while full deans have a
different reality as the "face of the college." The associate deans function as managers in
that they "monopolize all relevant knowledge within an organization," that includes a
"sharp divide between 'thinking' and 'doing'" (McKinlay & Starkey, 2000, p. 111).
The full women deans' language was filled with a corporate discourse, but with a
visionary motivational emphasis. Dean Dare defined leadership as getting "followers"
excited about a certain direction, "motivated and willing to follow you through ...
toward that goal whatever that might be." Dean Dare was one of the full deans who
recently transitioned from associate dean. Her language emphasized outcomes, goals,
and engaging people but also motivation, a view that delineates the divide between the
dean's mission to engage people, and the 'doing' of the associate deans. The deans
discussed the desire to inspire others and the associate deans alluded to being a "role
model." The deans, like the associate deans, still want to "make it happen," but they are
interested in broadening people's views. Dean Emmett, a dean from a female-dominated
college, used the phrase "larger than the self' to describe her leadership role for
expansion of faculty perspective within the organizational discourse.
Well leadership is helping people see a big picture and seeing that they can
become part of something larger than the self because if you only focus on the
self, and one of the problems I think about leadership and higher ed. is that when
you work with faculty it's an intensely narcissistic profession, because you're
always focused on the self. And leadership is about how do you break down that
wall and get faculty to commit to something larger than the self.
Inherent in "leadership" is the existence of followers. As Dean Dare said, "you can't
have a leader without followers." All the participants started as academics and segued
into leadership; they understand how faculty are rewarded and the difficulty of expanding
faculty's perceptions of their role in the institution. There is intense competition for
resources between faculty that negates the focus on "something larger than the self."
Another dean stated that "no individual can be successful on their own." Even these
female-dominated college deans utilized masculine metaphors such as "breaking down
the wall." Still the goal of this dean was to persuade faculty to follow the goals of the
dean or institution.
The five full deans described motivating and inspiring others to "see a big
picture" and move in that direction. These deans added a visionary dimension of
leadership to the pragmatic organizational language that echoed the leadership literature
in that discourse. Warren Bennis distinguished leaders using language such as
"challenge," "conquer the context," "eye on the horizon," and "do the right things,"
which portrays a pragmatic, visionary discourse (cited in Carter-Scott, 1994, p. 12).
Although their language paralleled the leadership literature discourse, these women did
not understand formally delineated leadership styles or cited leadership literature.
Associate Dean Bennett reported attending a summer leadership course, but stated this:
I've never studied (leadership styles) so it's just comes to me. (laughs) You
know? (laughs). So I think it's one of those things that's in your gut that you
have it to do to do a leadership kind of job. You know, leading could be,
here's the task, you do it and you do it in this way.
Although she had not studied leadership, she described leadership as something
innate. In retrospect, Dean Bennett understood that tasks are to be done in a certain way,
but she disclosed ambiguity about whether this is leadership. She spoke of leadership as
completing tasks, but in response to "what made you a leader," she reported that she
"bristled at the term leader." Leadership was defined by the deans as getting people to
work toward the goals of the organization. While these women's language reflected the
masculine, hierarchical discourse, the term "leadership" was loaded in the emotional
context of experience as demonstrated by Dean Bennett. What unfolded in the text was
discomfort with the masculine binary as will later be revealed.
Among the health-related professions, participants described the hierarchy. In
this example, the masculine colleges, deemed supreme over the feminine colleges, shows
the pervasiveness of these patterns:
The accepted hierarchy there is medicine is the big dog, dentistry is the next one
and then there's everybody else. But I really think it's always medicine,
dentistry, poor nursing is always dead last, and nobody knows what to think of
public health and health professions, you know, they're emerging as a concept.
The hierarchy is evident at the university especially in the health fields. This dean later
pointed out that this hierarchical structure is equated with salary; those with the highest
salaries have the most prestige. Later, the dean pondered on how these concepts affected
her daughter as well as all women. These deans were aware and reflected on how these
attitudes translate to the next generation of women and what roles they themselves play.
Although these women used rhetorical language when defining leadership, as the
interviews continued, each woman's viewpoint became increasingly multidimensional.
Unfolding the Feminine
Whatever the understanding of gender roles in leadership, most feminist
perspectives launch into an "oppositional discourse of masculine versus feminine
leadership," in which masculine leadership is presented as "competitive, hierarchical,
rational, unemotional, analytic, strategic and controlling, and feminine leadership as
cooperative, team working, intuitive/rational, focused on high performance, empathetic
and collaborative" (Loden, 1985, cited in Court, 2005, p. 4-5). The masculine discursive
voice was evident in the participants' language defining leadership. However, the
vertical hierarchy of the leadership language unfolded subtle feminine characteristics that
were horizontal, or collaborative, in nature. A masculine view of collaboration is that it
undermines one's power thus creating weakness (Brunner, 2005). One associate dean
confirmed that her collaborative leadership style was seen as weakness because she
seldom made a decision "without talking to other people;" a trait seen as indecisiveness
to her superiors. Collaboration in a hierarchical structure does not lead to powerful
positions; however, this study illustrated that collaboration can also be powerful.
Although the deans used a hierarchical discourse when defining leadership, the
definitions revealed elements of collaboration and service.
But leadership is really about, it's, it's about success. You know, we all, take
from one another, we gain strength from one another, and, that's what I have
always believed was my greatest strength is helping other people to, to reach their
First, Dean Vitalia equated leadership with success, a position at the top of the hierarchy,
but then emphasized the necessity for individuals to gain strength from each other. This
expands Dean Emmett's "larger than the self' text where faculty need to focus outside
themselves, but then connects individuals to each other, not only committing to the
institution. The deans' language emphasized motivation and inspiration of others and
helping "followers" reach their potential in their discourse; helping people reach their
potential is service.
The discourse of collaboration lends readily to one of service. Service connects
individuals to each other, and leadership has an element of fulfilling needs in others.
Women historically participated as deans in student affairs to first serve women students,
and later accepted this expanded role to serve male students (Nidiffer & Bashaw, 2001).
These "service" positions were deemed appropriate roles which aided the ascension of
women into higher education administration during the beginning of the 20th century,
and this has continued to the present. Dean Sasser, from a male-dominated college,
illustrated this concept by saying, "a lot of times leadership is somebody stepping up to
the plate seeing a need and filling it-being willing to say, 'yes,' a lot of people say,
'no.'" These women often ascended to their positions because they were willing to
perform duties that their male peers did not want to do; these women said "yes" instead
of "no." This discourse of service was especially present in the language of the women
from the male-dominated colleges. Dean Dare illustrated this:
I've only been a dean for 2 1/2 years. I was associate dean for 7 years and that's
truly a service .... Because as an associate dean, I mean I really felt more like a
servant of the college in the sense that, my job was to make sure I was
assisting education and make sure that you know everything ran right, everything
was fair and appropriate, and I suppose I had power in the sense that we would
judge student cases, and I did have the power to admit and dismiss students and I
suppose those are powerful things, but they were really just the business of the
The "business of the college" is what associate deans do; however, fulfilling needs is part
of the college business. Dean Dare's attitudes about service helped propel her into the
One element of deconstruction includes a constant "self-revising, self-correcting,
continual reaffirmation of itself, taking responsibility from moment to moment for itself,
if it is to have a self, a 'yes' followed by a 'yes' and then again another 'yes'" (Caputo,
1997, p. 200). These assistant deans also constantly look outside of themselves and "say
yes" to the needs of students and faculty; however, this attitude stays within the
boundaries of the university's goals. Historically, women leaders have been known for
their ability to create collaboration and build consensus in organizations (Brunner, 2005).
These women deans motivate others, but also their ability to inspire motivated
themselves. Inspiration and motivation adheres the institution together to achieve its
mission, and the deans' language is immersed with this discourse. Dean Langer, a dean
in a female-dominated college, illustrated this by saying,
I really think that leadership, involves being able to inspire other people .... You
know, paint the picture, make people excited about it- get them to say, wow! You
know, that would be neat.
This leader inspired people to think differently about the corporate strategy and to "make
it happen," but used unique language such as "paint the picture" to inspire others.
Consensus, cooperation, and collaboration are all the watchwords of participatory
management, terms frequently used in corporate discourse; however, this language is
secondary to hierarchical discourse. Leadership is primarily a vertical framework and
supercedes the horizontal adhesive that holds "followers" together.
Dean Highe spoke of the importance of a "diverse faculty, diverse student body"
that she admitted was harder to do in "this environment," alluding to a hierarchical
environment that she implied was the antithesis of a horizontal collaborative
representation. "Shared governance" and "ownership" are terms these deans used;
however, they are blurred in a predominately vertical environment where accountability
and surveillance exist.
Although these deans emphasized collaboration, the deans acknowledged that
they have techniques to move their agenda by selling their ideas to a few before taking
them to the whole.
If you want a decision to go your way,... best thing to do is you go and you start,
you have a conversation, with a couple of people and you see where they are and
you know you may tweak your ideas a little bit and you see oh, I really think this
would be really good for us so, they start talking about it, ... then you already
have a cadre of people that are on board. Then you know sell it, in effect to
In this way the deans "massaged" their agenda. The deans used the conversations to
gauge the success of their venture, but also directed what they deemed as important to the
college. This was a method by which the deans directed all relevant knowledge within an
organization (McKinlay & Starkey, 2000). Although the deans all talked about
collaboration, the deans used their hierarchical position to direct decisions. The deans
shared their ideas to employees prior to implementation to insure success. Although
there may be times where the conversations create employees' input, many employees
are wary to disagree with supervisors. This is a deliberate method of producing
consensus to direct knowledge.
Dean Emmett discussed this theme of consensus:
You want to share it. And also when you have power you're also thinking about
how to distribute it, so that other people have it. So that, and then you give them
the freedom to make their decisions, ... I say look, if you make mistakes that's
okay. I mean, I don't mind if people make mistakes because that's a learning
experience. I only mind when you make the same mistake twice.
Dean Emmett wants to share power to create ownership and consensus to move her
agenda. Freedom is given when people "work with" this dean, but the dean also
determines what qualifies as mistakes. There is a tension between the "gift" of freedom
in decision-making and making mistakes. In this context, decision-making is not
empowerment and is still harnessed by the dean. The deans determine and shape what is
knowledge and power.
The dean controls the "regime of truth" (Foucault, 1984, p. 74) for the college.
Both male-dominated and female dominated deans illustrated both consensus-building
and directing the knowledge of their college. In certain personnel matters, administrators
cannot reveal details thus keeping relevant information shrouded and rumors escalating.
Controlled meanings can transform into chaos and destabilize the organization. The
deans' success may be determined by how well the truth is veiled under cloak and smoke.
Because of these factors, shared governance may be a misnomer; there are many things
that must remain hidden.
How the dean portrays truth affects the power of her college. Although the
feminine side of leadership exemplifies collaboration, the deans are the top of the
hierarchy and direct what knowledge is deemed important and correct. Where the
intersection lies between the vertical hierarchy and the horizontal collaboration of an
institution determines the culture of that institution. Both the masculine and feminine
binaries are needed for the institution to exist; neither form is altogether absolute. The
intersection of the stratified vertical and horizontal nature of leadership can be blurred by
things hidden. This blurring functions as a fold which avoids the simplistic reversal of
binaries and seeks the middle (Badiou, 1994). Although the participant's language can
be distinguished into binaries, contradictions and discrepancies in the text collapse into
Power in western culture has been conceptualized as "dominance, control,
authority, and influence over others and things" (Brunner, 2005, p. 126). The "power-
over" concept has been heavily researched and analyzed by Etzioni (1961) as coercive,
remunerative, and normative (prestige) power, and delineated by French and Raven
(1979) as reward, coercive, legitimate, referent, and expert power. Within the concept of
"power-over" is the notion of its opposite-powerlessness (Brunner, 2005). In a 1998
study, Brunner and Schumaker found that men tended to use power to achieve their own
view of a community's common good rather than using their position to pursue the
collective common good. The "power-over" concept is thought to be masculine while
"power-with" is considered a feminine characteristic. Women tend to generate power by
empowering others and creating change via their roles as mothers and teachers (Miller,
1993). However, feminine power still has a directional pull as women function in a
nurturing role, caring for those subordinate to them.
The nature of power in poststructuralism is described using different language
and strategies. For Foucault,
Power must be analyzed as something that circulates. ... It is never localized
here or there, never in anybody's hands, never appropriated as a commodity or
piece of wealth. Power is employed and exercised through a net-like
organization. And not only do individuals circulate between its threads; they are
always in the position of simultaneously undergoing and exercising this power.
They are not only its inert or consenting target; they are always also the elements
of its articulation. In other words, individuals are the vehicles of power, not its
points of application. (Foucault, 1976, p. 98).
Individuals do not hold power, but power resides within an organization of relationships
within the discourse. Foucault used the term "discourse" as an inclusionary/exclusionary
system to help us understand how we are positioned as subjects which creates our relative
power in each discourse. There are rules within a discourse concerning who can make
statements and in what context, and these rules "exclude some and include others"
(Craib, 1992, p. 186). Differences in discourse spark conflict, and feminist studies assert
that all people have the capacity to resist oppression (Weiler, 2003). Foucault thought
that although the subject is affected by knowledge and power, it is "irreducible to these,"
so the "subject actually functions as a pocket of resistance to established forms of
power/knowledge" (Alvesson & Skoldberg, 2001, p. 230). Power is passed back and
forth from leader/subject and male/female depending on the discourse.
While power in the Western tradition segments readily into binaries, power in
poststructuralism examines the circular nature of power. In the next section, I examined
responses pertaining to questions about the production and negotiation of power, and the
language illustrated the revolving relationship between leadership and power.
Power and leadership are closely connected in these leaders' speech. As Foucault
suggests, what counts as knowledge is the relative power of those who claim it, and
"relations of force and power are involved at every level of a discursive formation"
(Macey, 2000, p. 101). When asked how they produce power, most participants
immediately transitioned into a traditional leadership discourse.
I use power ... to build enterprises to build programs of excellence to motivate
people, // to let them take their passion to the next level //with a strategic agenda,
so // that's how I use it. I sorta set out the vision and give people the opportunity
to execute it.
Dunlap's text began with an ambiguous "I don't know," but then immediately segued
into words such as "build," "passion," "vision," "execute" and "programs of excellence."
Her words reflected the goals of the university in the hierarchical discourse of leadership.
Leadership and power reflect each other in the text.
Dean Dare described power as the ability to make decisions that are measurable
through resource allocation. Dean Dare's response to negotiating power seemed
enigmatic at first, but then she quickly transitioned into how power is manifested in these
I think a lot of power comes from your personal connections from other powerful
people, and I've been, impressed by that. Impressed by how, // how positive
interpersonal relationships with say the president or the provost or the vice
president actually gets you stuff. (laughter) And I guess that stuff is what you
might call power. But you know I still believe deans are middle management
in this environment.
Dean Dare stated that power is derived from connections with other powerful people who
are in the hierarchy above the deans. Dean Dare presented the importance of developing
relationships with those above her to "get you stuff." In my own experience, employees
frequently forget those relationships above their administrators, and Dean Dare was
cognizant of her status in the hierarchy and considered her position middle management.
Dean Dare's husband advised her; "job one is keep your bosses happy." "Brokering
power" was a learned skill for this dean. Most women have difficulty culturally in self-
promoting, but Dean Dare learned this skill in order to "serve" the college. The deans
gained power by "managing up" as well as "managing down." Keeping your boss happy
is expected for her and by her, and that attitude becomes the expectation for the college.
"Stuff' is concrete evidence of power allocation throughout the university whether it is
new hires, equipment, or buildings. The full deans mentioned buildings and upgrades to
the physical plant that were made to their colleges during their tenure as evidence of their
productive desires. Dean Highe echoed this theme, but described how she gives power
through providing budgets to department chairs to "give them power to make a difference
in their environment." The budget is a source of power, but money is often allocated by
the utilization from the prior year, which diminishes the "gift" of power by the deans and
to the deans.
The deans described delegating decision-making, but the deans only delegate
those opportunities in situations that they deem appropriate.
Everybody doesn't get to share in every decision. There are certain things that
are my decisions. I know the most about them, I should make them. ... If
they're recommending something that doesn't make sense because they don't'
understand it, then I have to assume I didn't do a very good job of explaining it
well. ... I think you distribute that power in a very deliberate way. It doesn't
Dean Langer previously had described her consensus-building leadership style as
something she was proud of, but she distributed power deliberately. However, she stated
that not everybody gets to share in all decisions because she has the knowledge base and
the decisions are hers. Dean Langer took responsibility if the faculty made a
recommendation that contradicted her reality. This dean articulated how issues are
explained to control the establishment of truth. Her reality monopolizes all relevant
knowledge within an organization (McKinlay & Starkey, 2000). Although this corporate
discourse was pervasive throughout the text, the deans also transitioned into language
that reflected different forms of power.
Highe had been a dean for over 10 years in a male-dominated college, and she
described power being created through diversity. In this case, power was not just
institutional but also multidimensional.
Leadership to me is, having a sense of direction and bringing people together to
help move in that direction .. that there are different ways to achieve those goals
and ... to help make sure there is enough diversity in methods of achievement
which means different kinds of people to be involved in the whole process so that
you can really use the power of everybody you have to move an enterprise
forward if it's big enough.
Although Dean Highe was in a masculine-dominated college, her text emphasized
"difference" and "diversity" that resonates with the discourse of the third wave of
feminism. This practice is consistent with the poststructural focus of Kristeva on
diversity of identification, where rather than focusing on the hierarchies of male versus
female, the goal is to internalize the rivalries of the difference thus celebrating the
individualism of each person's identity that "patches together a diversity of ethnic,
regional, sexual, professional, and political identifications" (McAfee, 2004, p. 102). She
encouraged difference that in turn is "using the power of everybody" to exemplify
expanding boundaries and broadening views.
"Bringing people together" included the concept of shared governance that to the
deans made a college more powerful as a whole. One dean from a female-dominated
college stated that the power was not hers, but because of shared governance "the power
belongs to this college, .. and this college has become more powerful." She believed
that creating shared governance gave her college more power in the vertical framework
of the university. Several deans reiterated that the power belonged to the institution, and
their job was to support the institution. Although diversity and shared governance may
enhance the level of power, the institution still owns it, not the faculty or the dean. There
is a circular expansion/contraction and inclusion/exclusion of power that exists within
On the other hand, several women discussed the lack of power in their college.
The associate deans described their supportive role and understood that their power came
from their position and proximity to the dean. One associate dean who only supervised a
few staff, reported that she did not have "much power in the organization, except what
people give to me in their own brains. ... It is only when I am standing in for the dean
that I then have the power of her chair behind some of these interactions in which I
engage." This is reminiscent of the Foucaultian view that "truth" and "knowledge" are
socially constructed products of interests and power relations (Hines, 1988). This same
associate dean in a female-dominated college told a story about how her lunch group is
called the "power lunch" by faculty. This lunch group is informal, made up of past
administrators who rarely discuss work; however, she attributed power given to this
group as "fantasies about what goes on behind closed doors." Her description showed
the illusive nature of power, and that power given to others may not be reality in their
view. Knowledge that appears to be hidden becomes powerful, and the powerless
The five full deans used words such as "motivating" and "inspiring" to define
how to produce power in others. The associate deans for the most part, did not even
address producing power except for Dean Wilson, an associate dean from a female-
dominated college, who discussed power in context with another dean she worked for.
She stated that, "the term 'produce power' just doesn't ring a bell for me." She later
reported that power was "building consensus," but she had never reflected about creating
power. The five full deans understood how to answer this question because they are at
the head of their respective colleges and must delegate. Associate Dean Wilson had been
an integral part of college operations for over 20 years, and her dean had described their
college as "powerless" and "often discounted as ... not a real academic discipline."
While Dean Wilson personally had difficulty with the term "produce power," her
response illustrated how women leaders wield power, relative to her experience with two
(This present dean) if anything, she's goes the other side of keeping people
informed and in the loop. .... (The previous dean) just did it. And (this dean's)
very much not like that. .... But I'm in the loop, I have knowledge, I understand
where we're headed, and those things make me feel more confident, and
therefore, in terms of knowledge, power, and in terms of association, power, and
so on. Then I do have, and I do feel that I have more power, now than I did with a
different boss, .. because (the previous dean) went to the things she considered
to be important. (The current dean) does more delegation of that kind of thing, so
more of us have had that experience.
The previous dean did not communicate her knowledge about college business, thus
creating a sense of powerlessness in others. The implication was that communication
creates power. Dean Wilson further stated that the college had more power with the new
dean's leadership. Dean Wilson discussed the production of power in context of her
previous dean whom had hoarded power by not delegating or keeping her associate deans
"in the loop." Delegation in this context was a part of producing power in employees and
in the organization. The previous dean gave Dean Wilson the impression that she liked
hoarding the important tasks, thus making little attempt to produce or give power.
Derrida deconstructs the idea of giving in relation to justice. A gift is something
that cannot be reappropriated and "never appears as such and is never equal to gratitude"
(Caputo, 1997, p. 18). If a person says thank you for a gift, the gift starts being
destroyed; thus a gift is beyond the circle of gratitude. Gift-giving needs to go beyond
calculation because there is a point where calculation must fail. A politics calculated
"without justice and the gift, would be a terrible thing, and this is often the case"
(Caputo, 1997, p. 19). Delegation is a leader's gift to employees; however, the paradox
is that this gift is directed by the goals of the dean and the university. The failure resides
where the deans want to "give" power, but control it as well. However, Dean Wilson
appreciated the intent of delegation as she was immersed in the discourse of the
organization. The gift is impossible, yet possible in the circle of deconstruction.
Dean Vitalia spoke of diffusing power and giving people responsibility with
authority, but then outlined that middle management faces the paradox of having
responsibility with no authority.
Best way to produce power is to empower the people. (laughter) Give them
responsibility and authority to, now they, what is it, the definition of a coordinator
is all the responsibility and none of the authority. (...) I don't think you really
have power if... you want to be the only one with power, I guess that's
Dean Vitalia stated that the best way to produce power is to empower, yet if
employees have no authority, then they do not lead but control. The tension in this
paradox is that employees cannot be empowered without the freedom to own their power
and vision. Dean Vitalia outlined that to have authority is to be the only one with power.
Dean Highe summarized that producing power, "is to enable other people to achieve their
goals that are consistent with the mission and goals of the college and university."
Moving an enterprise utilizes the power of everybody, and Dean Highe recognized the
need for diversity, or a multiplicity of methods and people to achieve goals, but these
goals must be consistent with the university. Enterprises and institutions are not
democracies. Dean Highe reminded us that power is only given to accomplish the
mission of the university and is not the people's power; thus, the leader controls the rules
of discourse. The dean's goal is to convince others that they own the vision when the
organization actually does.
Dean Langer, who had one of the highest faculty satisfaction ratings in the
university, tried to prepare employees, "to feel ownership of what the requirements are
for the process sense of greater ownership in the things that affect them." Her job
was to persuade the faculty to buy into the institution's vision, but this creates an
oppositional binary of resistance when faculty cannot align themselves to the institution.
The "us" versus "them" power struggle is born. Dean Langer recognized the tension
inherent in the term power.
I don't really like the notion of power. I like the notion of strength. Power to me
tends to convey controlling other people. ... I try not to use power. Although
I'll bet you that people who see me as very powerful, ... I think you, you know,
if we want to try to cast power as something positive, ... you know, I think that
you use and produce maybe influence. I'm more comfortable with that word
(laughs). By, ... getting people engaged in processes. Getting them to feel that
they can have ownership // of things. Perhaps initially starting out by rewarding or
praising people for accomplishments, but eventually getting it so that it doesn't
depend on me to reward it or to praise it.
This dean liked the term "influence" instead of "power," to reframe this coercion
or management of people's behavior. Dean Langer's power resided in convincing others