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Campus Women Lead

Fall 2012/Winter 2013

Volume 41
Numbers 2-3

Challenges and Opportunities for Women's Leadership


Director's Outlook

From Where I Sit

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From Where I Sit

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Nannerl O. Keohane  
Nannerl O. Keohane

Undergraduate Women's Leadership in the Twenty-First Century
Nannerl O. Keohane, Princeton University

Many of us take for granted that women will someday occupy top leadership roles in the same proportions as men. Based on the performance of thousands of women leaders, we are confident that women have a great deal to contribute to leadership in a range of contexts. We think that women should hold up half the sky in boardrooms and corner offices, just as they do elsewhere. It is surely taking a long time, but we might assume that the path we are on will lead to equity eventually.

Unfortunately, there is no reason to think that this destination is inevitable. Data from a variety of sectors show how few women there are in top corporate jobs and senior government positions in the United States and most other countries, and the rate of change is very slow. Furthermore, recent work on several campuses has indicated that there may be some unexpected turnings and detours in the path ahead for women’s leadership. In this essay, I will summarize research findings on undergraduate women’s leadership at both Duke and Princeton Universities and propose steps that higher education might take to encourage women students to develop their potential for leadership in college and beyond.

Briah Fischer  
Briah Fischer

Finding Balance in Leadership
Briah Fischer, senior majoring in public health at Tulane University

Upon arrival at institutions of higher education, college men and women may share certain experiences: navigating campus geography and resources, meeting diverse friends or roommates, and enjoying their newfound independence if it is their first time away from home. Despite these similarities, researchers have begun to notice glaring differences between first-year men and women, particularly when it comes to leadership. Men tend to enter college with greater confidence in their leadership abilities than is typical of their female peers, and this confidence gap never quite closes during the undergraduate years (Sax 2008). In addition, a recent study of undergraduate leadership at Princeton University suggests that male and female students may have different ideas of what leadership entails, with women more interested in making an impact on causes about which they are passionate and men more likely to seek positions at an organization’s helm (Keohane 2011). As an undergraduate woman, I am particularly interested in the implications these differences have for the future of women’s leadership.  


Paulette Dalpes  
Paulette Dalpes

Encouraging Undergraduate Women Leaders in Community College Settings
Paulette Dalpes, deputy to the vice chancellor for student affairs and chief of staff, City University of New York

Efforts to censor women’s voices and our right to determine what happens to our bodies have been at the forefront of recent news. In the context of what some have called a new “war on women,” it is as important as ever for women to forge new paths to leadership positions where we can effect change. Yet the challenges to women’s rights impede women students’ ability even to pursue college degrees, much less to fully participate as leaders on their campuses. This is particularly true at community colleges, where students’ safety nets tend to be smaller and the loss of access to critical resources—including those connected to reproductive rights, affordable child care, housing, and food—can mean the end of a student’s college career. The challenges women students in community college often face and the strengths they develop as a result provide their institutions with unique opportunities to encourage and cultivate women student leaders.           


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