Gender equity in leading a South African private Higher Education Institution

Abstract

Abstract: Significant gender inequity remains despite initiatives to increase the representation of women leaders in higher education. There is a scarcity of research focusing on gender equity in higher education leadership in the African context or reference to the standing of gender equity in private higher education institutions. Thus, this study sought to explore gender equity in leading a South African private higher education institution. Using a generic qualitative research approach, data collection was undertaken using semi-structured interviews, and a focus group with eight institutional leaders from a South African private higher education institution. The data from the study revealed that gender stereotypes persist in private higher education institutions, defining which roles women should hold and how they should be managed and regarded inside the institution. These gender biases are based on patriarchal attitudes that have cultural origins and impact the micropolitical culture of the institution. As a result, many women opt not to pursue leadership positions to protect themselves and their domestic responsibilities. As demonstrated by the study’s findings, there is no clear policy on leadership appointments, which has led to unfair practices in selecting leaders, such as an old boys club that advances male leaders. Women leaders face unequal treatment and must fight to be recognised and respected, often assuming masculine characteristics. Despite women numerically being the majority of the leaders in the institution, the study’s findings indicated that these women leaders’ responsibilities are primarily administrative. As a result, defining leadership and its responsibilities and context becomes significant. The benefits of attaining gender equity in leadership include being reflective of the student body, recruiting stronger female candidates for leadership roles, and growing the business. Some proposed strategies to achieve gender equity include formal mentorship and professional development plans, encouragement to take leadership roles, flexibility, and family-friendly policies. It is recommended that South African private higher education institutions establish a comprehensive, transparent policy on leadership and the support thereof, to advance gender equity in the leadership of these institutions. Key words: gender equity, leadership, private higher education, women leaders, policy.M.Ed. (Educational Leadership and Management

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Last time updated on 27/07/2022

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