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Leading Higher Education Differently: Desiring, Dismissing or Disqualifying Women? Professor Louise Morley Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER) University of Sussex, UK Snapshot Statistics: Women Vice-Chancellors.

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Leading Higher Education Differently: Desiring, Dismissing or Disqualifying


Professor Louise Morley

Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER)

University of Sussex, UK

s ome provocations
Some Provocations
  • How has gender escaped the logic of the policy turbulent global academy?
  • Why/ how is women’s capital devalued/ misrecognised in the knowledge economy?
  • Who self-identifies/ is identified by existing power elites, as having leadership legitimacy?
  • Do cultural scripts for leaders coalesce/collide with normative gender performances?
  • Are norm-saturated narratives constructing who is intelligible as leaders?
  • Women leaders = contextual discontinuity/ interruptive in their shock quality.
  • International Questionnaires, Focus Groups and Literature Reviews for the British Council

(participants from 5 continents)

(Morley, 2014)

  • Rigorous Literature Review - Leadership Foundation in Higher Education

(Morley, 2013)

leading the global academy
Leading the Global Academy
  • Australia (Fitzgerald, 2011)
  • Canada (Acker, 2012)
  • China (Chen, 2012)
  • Finland (Husu, 2000)
  • Ghana (Ohene, 2010)
  • Guyana (Austin, 2002)
  • Hong Kong (Cheung, 2012)
  • Ireland (Lynch, 2010)
  • Japan (Shirahase, 2013)
  • Kenya (Onsongo, 2004)
  • Nigeria (Odejide, 2007)
  • Norway (Benediktsdottir, 2008)
  • Pakistan (Rab, 2010)
  • Papua New Guinea (Sar & Wilkins, 2001)
  • South Africa (Shackleton et al., 2006)
  • South Korea(Kim et al., 2010)
  • Sri Lanka (Gunawardena et al., 2006)
  • Sweden(Peterson, 2011)
  • Tanzania (Bhalalusesa, 1998)
  • Turkey (Özkanli, 2009)
  • Uganda (Kwesiga & Ssendiwala, 2006)
  • UK (Deem, 2003)
  • USA (Bonner, 2006)
berating explaining absences
Berating/ Explaining Absences
  • Gendered Divisions of Labour
  • Gender Bias/ Misrecognition
  • Cognitive errors in assessing merit/leadership suitability/ peer review
  • Institutional Practices
  • Management & Masculinity
  • Greedy Organisations
  • Women’s Missing Agency/ Deficit Internal Conversations
  • Socio-cultural messages e.g. the highly educated woman as the ‘third sex’.

Counting more women into existing systems, structures and cultures = an unquestioned good.

(Morley, 2012, 2013)

vertical career success or incarceration in an identity cage
Vertical Career Success or Incarceration in an Identity Cage?


  • Punishment/Reward
  • Morality of turn-taking, sacrifice, domestic labour
  • Rotational /fixed term

Can Involve

  • Multiple/ conflicting affiliations,

resignifications & unstable engagements with hierarchy & power (Cross & Goldenberg, 2009)

  • Working with resistance & recalcitrance
  • Colonising colleagues’ subjectivities towards the goals of managerially inspired discourses
  • An affective load/ identity work (Ahmed, 2010)
  • Managing self-doubt, conflict, anxiety, disappointment & occupational stress

(Acker, 2012)

  • Restricting, rather than building capacity and creativity.
expanding the theoretical lexicon
Expanding the Theoretical Lexicon

Barad’s (2007) theory of ‘intra-action’examines:

  • how differences are made and remade
  • stabilised and destabilised
  • how individuals exist because of the existence of given interactions

Leaders made via power relations/ politics of difference.

Ahmed’s (2010) theory of happiness:

  • is a technology/ instrument
  • re-orientates individual desires towards a common good.

Leadership = sign of vertical career success.

Berlant’s(2011) theory of cruel optimism:

  • Depending on objects that block our thriving.

Leadership = normative fantasy and/or a bad object of desire .


Evolution of Managerialism?

  • Social and organisational technology
  • Disguises corporatisation/ values shift in HE
  • Transformative leadership is value-laden/ not neutral.
  • Diverts attention to personal qualities/ skills.


  • Subjectivities
  • Values
  • Behaviours
  • Dispositions
  • Characteristics


  • Strategically overcome institutional inertia
  • Outflank resistance/ recalcitrance
  • Provide direction for new university futures

(O’Reilly and Reed, 2010, 2011).

women reflexively scanning
Women Reflexively Scanning

Women Are Not/ Rarely

  • Identified, supported and developed for leadership.
  • Achieving the most senior leadership positions in prestigious, national co-educational universities.
  • Personally/ collectively desiring senior leadership.
  • Attracted to labour intensity of competitive, audit cultures in the managerialised global academy.

Women Are

  • Constrained by socio-cultural messages
  • Entering middle management.
  • Entering some senior leadership positions in non-elite universities.
  • Often located on career pathways that do not lead to senior positions.
  • Attracted to influence, rewards and recognition.
  • Burdened with affective load:
  • being ‘other’ in masculinist cultures
  • navigating between professional and domestic responsibilities.
  • Often perceiving leadership as loss.
  • Demanding change.
manifesto for change accountability transparency development and data

Manifesto for Change: Accountability, Transparency, Development and Data

Equality as Quality- equality should be made a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) in quality audits, with data to be returned on percentage and location of women professors and leaders, percentage and location of undergraduate and postgraduate students and gender pay equality. Gender equity achievements should be included in international recognition and reputation for universities in league tables.

Research Grants- funders should monitor the percentage of applications and awards made to women and to actively promote more women as principal investigators. The applications procedures should be reviewed to incorporate a more inclusive and diverse philosophy of achievement. Gender implications and impact should also be included in assessment criteria.

Journals - Editorial Boards, and the appointment of editors, need more transparent selection processes, and policies on gender equality e.g. to keep the gender balance in contributions under review.

Data - a global database on women and leadership in higher education should be established.

Development - more investment needs to be made in mentorship and leadership development programmes for women and gender needs to be included in existing leadership development programmes.

Mainstreaming - work cultures should be reviewed to ensure that diversity is mainstreamed into all organisational practices and procedures.

higher education leadership
Higher Education Leadership
  • Situational logic of career progression.
  • Socially articulated and constituted by a social/ policy world that many women do not choose/ control.
  • Perceived as structurally and culturally restorative/promotional of the status quo.
making alternativity imaginable
Making Alternativity Imaginable?

How can leadership narratives,

technologies & practices be more:

than discursive performances/repetitions of:

  • values
  • regulative norms

of new public governance/austerity/HE reform narratives

  • generative, generous and gender-free?
follow up
Morley, L. (I2014) Lost Leaders: Women in the Global Academy. In press, Higher Education Research and Development.

Morley, L. (2013) "The Rules of the Game: Women and the Leaderist Turn in Higher Education " Gender and Education. 25(1):116-131.

Morley, L. (2013) Women and Higher Education Leadership: Absences and Aspirations. Stimulus Paper for the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Morley, L. (2013) International Trends in Women’s Leadership in Higher Education In, T. Gore, and Stiasny, M (eds) Going Global. London, Emerald Press.


Follow Up?