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Vol 2011 No2 (Posted August 2011)

||Global Conflict ||Environment||Women's Studies||

Women's studies


Women and Leadership: Transforming Visions and Current Contexts
Jean Lau Chin, Professor, Adelphi University

Women have increasingly moved toward greater gender equality at home and in the workplace.  Yet, women are still underrepresented in leadership roles and still considered an anomaly compared to men when in high positions of leadership especially within institutions of higher education.  In examining differences between how men and women lead, it is often less what they do than in the different experience they face when they lead.  Stereotypic gender role expectations can constrain their leadership behaviors.  Perceived incongruity between women and leadership roles pose obstacles to leadership and result in double binds, more negative performance appraisals, and different standards compared to those applied to men.  
It is increasingly clear that a gender neutral view of leadership is insufficient, and that we need to consider the influence of cultural worldviews and socialization on shaping leadership style.  There is much to suggest that feminist leadership styles are intentionally different-- more collaborative and transformational compared to men.  This becomes more complex when we include dimensions of racial and ethnic diversity.  We need to transform our views of leadership to promote more robust theories and diverse models of effective leadership.  While current leadership theories favor transformational and collaborative leadership styles, organizational cultures often mirror social constructions of gender and ethnicity norms in society.  Within the context of higher education institutions, there is often a tension between hierarchical and collaborative forms of leadership reflected in contradictory sets of practices.   While women leaders may have an advantage in such contexts, they also face obstacles in needing to change organizational cultures that mirror social biases against women as leaders. 

Religious Freedom and Section 116 of the Australian Constitution: Would a Banning of the Hijab or Burqa Be Constitutionally Valid?
Anthony Gray, Associate Professor, University of Southern Queensland

In recent years, the issue of the extent to which an individual has or should have the right to religious freedom, and to manifest that freedom by wearing particular items of clothing, has become very contentious.  Some nations have seen fit to ban the wearing of particular items of clothing thought to have religious significance, at least in some contexts.  Courts from a range of jurisdictions have sought to grapple with these issues, involving a range of values and sometimes competing interests.  As we will see, they have done so in different ways, and some of the results are, at first blush, somewhat surprising.
In this article, I will consider constitutional (and discrimination) issues that would arise if the Australian Parliament enacted legislation prohibiting the wearing of particular items of clothing often thought to have religious significance, in particular the hijab, burqa or niqab.  While the ban could apply to other items of clothing or jewellery of religious significance other than Islam, given that most of the current debate concerns symbols of Islam, I will use this particular context as the focus of discussion.  In so doing, I will draw upon the rich jurisprudence concerning these issues in other jurisdictions, where much more litigation has taken place regarding the question than Australia.  The volume of litigation elsewhere means that consideration of the Australian position is enriched by considering some of the specific issues that have been considered by overseas courts, with the likelihood that at some stage similar issues will need to be considered by Australian courts.  These overseas developments should inform our consideration of the interpretation of the Australian provisions, and assist in reaching an interpretation of the relevant provisions.  As with all comparative analysis, it is necessary to bear in mind the different statutory, constitutional and convention context in which decisions are reached. 
 I will also consider briefly whether a different result would apply if the ban were passed at State level.  This is not an abstract argument; a current Senator in the Australian Parliament, has personally called for a burqa ban, and private members’ bills have been introduced in New South Wales and South Australia to introduce such a ban, at least in some circumstances. 

Women’s Leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics: Barriers to Participation
Laura McCullough, Department Chair, Physics Department, University of Wisconsin-Stout

Despite gains overall, women are still under-represented in leadership positions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Data in the US suggest around one-quarter of deans and department heads are women; in science this drops to nearly 1 in 20. Part of this problem of under-representation stems from the population pool: only 33% of science and engineering doctorate holders employed in academia are women. Other issues include well-known problems of women’s participation in STEM fields: lack of role models, unconscious biases, discrimination, and unwelcoming climates.

This paper examines the primary barriers to women’s participation in (1) STEM areas and (2) leadership arenas. Examination of the two suggests that women in STEM fields are particularly susceptible to the barriers and biases facing women who wish to move into leadership positions. The similarity in the barriers in these two areas could lead to an effective double jeopardy for women entering STEM leadership. A distinct lack of research in the area of women’s leadership in STEM fields suggests that this is a major problem that is not currently understood and not being addressed.

Women Accountants in Practicing Accounting Firms: Their Status,
Investments and Returns

Simeon O. Okpechi and Rachid Belmasrour

Simeon O. Okpechi  Professor, College of Business, Southern University at New Orleans
Rachid Belmasrour, Professor, Mathematics Department, Southern University at New Orleans

In the past twenty years, the number of qualified women accountants in the U.S. has outstripped that of men according to American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; yet these women occupy few strategic positions in accounting firms. Retention has been a major issue. This study explores how the perception of their status, investments and returns therefrom influence their decisions to remain as career accountants or to leave. Accordingly, a conceptual framework and structured self-administered questionnaire were developed. Questionnaires were mailed to 140 female accountants in five states. The result suggests that women favorably perceive their status, investments and returns they get from being practicing accountants. However, their matriculation into the strategic positions of partners and managing partners is severely constrained by family and gender issues, and long standing traditions. Equality of pay, sabbatical and being given special considerations in audit and consultancy assignments are less important issues to them.


Women 'Opting Out' of Academia: At What Cost?
Beth Z. Schneider, William Carden, Alyson Francisco and Thomas O. Jones Jr.

Previous research has examined the phenomenon of women “opting out” of the corporate environment. Much of this research has examined both “pull” factors—those of home and family life, and “push” factors—those within the organization which create a competitive environment where women feel they cannot achieve the same measure of success as their male counterparts.   Similar forces, which create push in the corporate environment, are also present in academia preventing female academicians from achieving an equal presence in the higher levels of academia as their male counterparts. While the makeup of postsecondary education among students has reached a more balanced ratio in bachelors, masters and doctorial degrees, the gender make up of tenured professors and administrators in the academy still lags behind.  The existence of this phenomenon presents similar loses and opportunity costs for universities as experienced by industrial organizations. This leads to the following questions; 1) How wide is the faculty and leadership gender gap in academia, 2) How have these gaps manifested in academia, and 3) What are the direct or indirect costs associated with this employment gap?   The answer to these questions may lead to extensive additional research opportunities to discover strategies and guidance in the resolving these problems.

Sustainable Equity: Avoiding the Pendulum Effect in the Life Sciences
Tatiana C. Tatum Parker and Rebecca Rosenthal

In order to understand and resolve the disproportionate number of women in the sciences it is necessary to look at historical educational trends.  Through the ages there is evidence of a 'pendulum effect' where there have been major shifts focusing science education either on male or females.  To be able to realistically establish sustainable equity in the natural and life sciences it is necessary to reexamine not only the curriculum verbiage used in the text but also teaching styles that are used to present the material.  One approach is introducing more hands-on learning to supplement the 'banking' approach traditionally used in introductory science classes.  Hands-on learning engages visual, kinesthetic as well as auditory pathways and allows students to move from abstract thinking to dealing with the concrete.  
While there have been numerous studies done, they have historically focused on the effect of hands-on learning in K-12 schools.  There is still much research that needs to be done on all types of science curriculum, especially at the post secondary level.  We conducted several studies at Saint Xavier University with students in the Introductory Biology and Women in Science Courses.  We examined the effects of various pedagogies on class performance in a non-majors science course.  We examined the effects of no labs, a few labs or weekly labs on student performance.  Significant improvements were seen within sexes (10%), and with female students (13%), while male students showed modest improvement (2%).  While this is not the only way to achieve sustainable equity in natural sciences, this appears to be an effective pedagogical tool in stabilizing the 'pendulum effect'.





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