Looking Good and Being Good: Women Leaders in Australian Universities

Professor

Tanya Fitzgerald

(She/Her)

Professor

Faculty of Education

University of Western Australia

Professor Tanya Fitzgerald is a historian of education, public educator and Dean and Head of the Graduate School of Education at UWA.
New Zealander

Overview

This research examines explicit and implicit ways women’s leadership bodies are gendered. I interrogate the visibility of women in leadership positions and the performance of gender.

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Key Findings

    How to apply research

    • Conduct unconscious bias training. This should uncover implicit bias directed related to how a person is perceived and their outer clothing.
    • Understanding of organisational culture. Organisational culture change should help to address hidden and implicit messages/messaging to employers
    • Organisations should commit to understanding implicit ways in which gender operates

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    About this research

      This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

      Recommended for

      About this research

        This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

        Recommended for

        What findings means

        In this article, I argue that women in senior leadership positions in universities continue to face a number of tensions and ambiguities in their everyday working lives. Drawing on the metaphors of ‘looking good’ and ‘being good’, I highlight the gendered assumptions that senior women encounter. As senior leaders, women are simultaneously required to negotiate an inherently masculine culture yet at the same time are expected to exercise a level of femininity. Their physical presence, appearance, clothing, gestures, and behaviours are central to the bodily exercise of leadership. As the data presented illustrate, women’s leadership bodies and bodily performances reflect gendered institutional norms and assumptions about how leaders should look and act.

        Methodology

        This research was based from narrative inquiry, and then used NVIVO and metaphors to analyse the data.

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        Want to read the full paper? It is available open access

        Fitzgerald, T. (2018) Looking good and being good: Senior women leaders in Australian universities, Education Sciences 54(8)