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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Power and leadership : a perspective from college women Cockell, Martha Jean

Abstract

This thesis presents an analysis of career choices and concepts of power and leadership of women with administrative responsibility at a community college in British Columbia. The purpose of the study is to provide a rationale for changing existing patriarchal, hierarchical, bureaucratic systems into systems that will be more comfortable for women. It addresses the underrepresentation of women at the top of organizational hierarchies by investigating the fit between women's values and concepts of power and leadership and those of the bureaucratic system and by investigating how this fit affects their career choices. The theoretical framework of separate, connected, and constructed leadership is based on theories of women's moral and epistemological development (Gilligan, 1982; Belenky et al., 1986). Separate leadership is based on the ethic of justice and rights. Connected leadership is based on the ethic of care and connection. Constructed leadership is based on a balance between the ethic of justice and rights and the ethic of care and connection. This thesis has the basic characteristics of feminist research which include research for, by and about women. The researcher is a woman who has had administrative responsibility at the same college. The qualitative approach addresses the complexity and depth needed to answer the research questions. The methods include questionnaires and in-depth interviews. This thesis concludes that women tend to have different concepts of power and leadership than those traditionally found in the bureaucratic system and that the fit between women's concepts and those of the system does affect their career choices. The interviewees have connected values and concepts of power and leadership. In the bureaucratic system, separate values and concepts of power and leadership predominate. Based on the career choices data, there are three categories of women. First, there are those who would not choose to go on further up the hierarchy because they see a misfit between their values and those of the system. Second, there are those who choose to go on further up the hierarchy because, they either do not recognize any misfit between their values and the values of the system, or they recognize the misfit, but are willing and able to adjust. Third, there are those who choose to go up the hierarchy, recognizing the misfit between their values and those of the system, but they are determined to change it by entering the administrative hierarchy. One of the reasons there are few women at the top of hierarchies is that there are few women in the latter two categories. Women near the top of hierarchies are perceived by some interviewees as using only separate leadership skills. Their connected skills are invisible because these skills are not valued in the present system. There are two factors to this invisibility. First, the women near the top behave in ways that emphasize their separate skills and hide their connected skills. Second, other people expect to see separate skills when they observe people near the top of the hierarchy. This thesis recommends changing the present system to visibly include connected values. The system needs to be changed to fit women; fitting women to the system must stop. To do this will require both women and men with connected leadership skills making these skills visible by sharing power and actively working to change the system. A college administrative system which balances separate and connected leadership would be a constructed system which would more effectively fulfill its mission by meeting the diverse needs of its community.

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