Leadership, Gender and Empowerment: Female Student Experiences at Kalamazoo College
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Previous research has shown the challenges and complexities of females in leadership, specifically because our societal conceptions of leadership are rooted in masculine understandings and practices because men have most often held positions of leadership (Eagly 2000). Due to this, female leaders have received little recognition for successful and/or effective leadership because they are most often leading in a masculine context (Brookfield & Preskill 2009). The Women's Leadership Research Center at Kalamazoo College interviewed the same population of female students once a year for their four academic years. This study uses that data to evaluate campus experiences that have enhanced and diminished female student leadership aspirations throughout their college years. Findings show that female students are empowered in situations that embody female leadership characteristics of collaboration, consensus and affirmation. Female students are most often disempowered in experiences that embody traditionally male characteristics of competition and individualism. Current and future female students would benefit from the conscious implementation of feminist pedagogical practices as well as continued recognition and support from faculty and administrators. It is also recommended that Kalamazoo College regularly implement a study of female student experiences to assess variations related to the changes being implemented at the college.