Women and intellectual leadership in East Asia’s academic professions: A review of the literature

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In general terms we see in the academic professions a serious absence of women academic role models (Luke, 1998; Siann and Callaghan, 2001; Baker, 2010; Macfarlane, 2011; Howe-Walsh and Turnbull, 2014) and a lack of self-efficacy for advancement to senior and leadership positions (Ely, 1994; Savigny, 2014). Given that a dominance of masculine patterns of communication, leadership and performance-driven culture is observed in academia (White, 2003), alternative kinds of mentoring, guidance and personal encouragement by senior female professors can be highly beneficial to their junior women fellows. Research findings by Lam (2006) reveal that women academics consider it more ideal to be mentored by senior colleagues of the same gender. Had there been more senior professors with similar gendered experiences, aspirations and subjectivities to their own, junior women academics perceive that they might have found it easier to “model success” (Lam, 2006, p. 153). The under-representation of women in senior levels of the academic hierarchy, especially in the fields of science, engineering and technology (Siann and Callaghan, 2001), implies an insufficiency of mentorship. There is a shortage of mentorship designed for junior women academics (Fu, 2015) and training for female academic managers (Luke, 1998). The reality of female under-representation at the higher academic ranks and in most journal editorial boards (Morley, 2014) signals to junior academic women the cultural and structural impediments to career success, which affects their self-efficacy about academic advancement, and perceived competence about attaining more senior positions (Savigny, 2014). Many women academics thus aspire more to ‘catch up’ with their research progress and performance than to ‘ambitiously’ seek to attain a leadership position (Chen, 2008; Özkanlı et al., 2009). This is especially the case for women academics who already are assigned heavy loads of administrative responsibilities (Luke, 1998, p. 48). Therefore, concerns regarding time commitment for managerial tasks, work-life/family balance and personal health keep a considerable number of junior female scholars from aspiring to take up greater intellectual roles in the academy (Acker, 2014). More problematically, the predominance of males and the subtle prevalence of a masculinist culture in senior management does not encourage female academics to expend their energies in tackling existing access impediments to intellectual leadership (White, 2003; Chen and Hune, 2011). It is argued that self-confidence, ambition, aggression, as well as quests for productivity, competitiveness and strategic planning are masculine traits in nature (Madera, Hebl and Martin, 2009), whereas the feminine attribute of caring is considered as “a form of negative equity” in higher education leadership (Morley, 2013, p. 123). This chapter will provide an in-depth literature review of articles addressing gender inequities in academia in Hong Kong, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, South Korea and Taiwan. The key focus will be on impediments to women’s representation at leadership level in higher education. Little research to date has been carried out on the wider issues of inclusive learning environments or inclusive leadership in higher education in East Asia. Copyright © 2018 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInclusive leadership in higher education: International perspectives and approaches
EditorsLorraine STEFANI, Patrick BLESSINGER
Place of PublicationNew York
ISBN (Electronic)9781315466088
ISBN (Print)9781138201439, 9781138201446
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Tang, H.-H. H. (2018). Women and intellectual leadership in East Asia’s academic professions: A review of the literature. In L. Stefani & P. Blessinger (Eds.), Inclusive leadership in higher education: International perspectives and approaches (pp. 29-45). New York: Rouledge.


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