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Past event

Leading Women in Higher Education

In this Leading Women seminar, we will investigate the intersections of gender, race, and geolocation in shaping women’s experiences of leadership in Higher Education. We aim to identify commonalities and differences between how women experience and circumnavigate barriers in their career trajectories that make leadership positions possible and desirable.

The session will report on two international projects.

Dr Amanda French from Birmingham City University will report back on a British Council Going Global: Gender Equality Partnerships project The EnPOWER project engaged with women’s inequal access to leadership opportunities in higher education in Vietnam. There is a growing interest in this area in recent times and research indicates that despite the introduction of the Gender Equality Law introduced in 2006 by the Vietnamese government to promote equal opportunities to women intended to reduce the Gender Gap Index score of 70% in Vietnam, “there are few women in leadership roles in several sectors including HE” (Maheshewari and Nayak (2020). Soryaly and Khon’s 2017 study of An Giang University noted for example that whilst 52% of academic staff were women only 32% had achieved a key leadership position. Nguyen et al (2017) further note that women who have successfully progressed into leadership roles have often not had formal leadership training and most commonly learn ‘on the job’ by experience. Dang’s 2012 case study of women in leaders in universities and colleges in the Meekong Delta also found that women who did progress to leadership roles tended to do so contingently and “unintentionally” (Dang, 2012:3).

Dr Karen Jones from Reading University introduces a large scale research project into women’s experiences of maternity leave and the period that follows. The presentation will report findings from a study into maternity leave experiences and career implications in Higher Education (Jones & Floyd, 2023), which involved secondary analysis of a global mixed method online survey with 553 women academics (82% UK, 18% international). The findings show women’s maternity rights were frequently eroded. Many women undertook core academic duties during periods of formal maternity leave, such as writing grant applications and journal articles, supervising doctoral students, teaching and responding to email, primarily in response to managerial expectations and psychological pressure to meet performance targets or due to fear of ‘career death’. Punitive measures and backlash were frequently reported by women upon the return to work, even when they had undertaken work duties during maternity leave. This had a profound impact on women’s sense of self-worth and belonging in their institutions.

Both projects conclude by suggesting policies and practices for promoting gender equality and inclusive leadership within organizations.

We are yet to detail the full programme and can invite speakers with a specific expertise in race and ethnicity, class and other marginalisation to respond to the formal presentations.  

Draft Programme:

12:00 Welcome and Introduction
12:10 EnPOWER: Creating  a community of practice and collective ethnography with women leaders in HE in Vietnam
Dr Amanda French, Birmingham City University; Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas, Birmingham City University
12:30 Q&A
12:35 Maternity leave experiences and implications for women’s careers and leadership in Higher Education
Dr Karen Jones, Reading University
12:55 Q&A
13:00 Break
13:10 Correspondent – Responses to Presentations
Dr Natalie Tegama, Queen Mary University London; Dr Deborah Outhwaite, London School of Economics
13:20 Group Discussions
14:00 Event Close

Chairs and Speakers

Profile picture of Azumah Dennis
Azumah Dennis, Dr

Lecturer at The Open University

Carol Azumah Dennis has worked in higher education since 2010, first at the University of Hull where she was employed initially as a lecturer in education and programme director for post-16 teacher education, and later as programme director for...

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Karen Broadhurst Healey, Ms

Student (PhD Education at University of Manchester) at University of Manchester

Karen is a doctoral researcher at the University of Manchester. Her research focus is the governance and leadership of multi academy trusts. Prior to this she worked in and with schools for thirty years in a variety of leadership positions.

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Amanda French, Dr

Head of Department: Professional Development, Research and Enterprise at Birmingham City University

Dr Amanda French is an Associate Professor in Teaching and Learning at Birmingham City University in the College of Education and Social Work. She has an established track record in research and development in Vietnam and the UK and is an...

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Karen Jones, Dr

Associate Professor of Educational Leadership & Management at University of Reading

Dr Karen Jones is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Management at the Institute of Education, University of Reading, UK. She holds senior leadership responsibilities as Director of the Doctorate in Education (EdD) and on the...

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Deb Outhwaite, Dr

Director at University of Liverpool

Deb Outhwaite has worked in education for 30 years. She has taught and examined at A-level, spent a decade teaching undergraduate and postgraduate education programmes. She is Director of Developing Teachers, Schools and Academies (DTSA), and is...