Women and Leadership in Higher Education in China: Discourse and the Discursive Construction of Identity
- How do female academics define their identities?
- How do they talk about the female leader identity more generally?
- In what ways is this talk (discourse) intertwined with larger societal Discourses of leadership and gender?
2. Theoretical Framework
3. Materials and Method
4. Analysis and Findings
4.1. How Do Female Academics Define Their Identities?
I think I should be a good teacher, because in university, your ability in teaching matters a lot. Only if you have a good ability of teaching, other staff are willing to respect your management.(Respondent O, Department Director)
I take care of the daily chores all by myself. Because my husband is an intellectual who needs much quiet time, it means that his thoughts cannot be easily interrupted. Hence, I have to do more housework. I think men should do great things, and women should get small things done. This is my principle of doing things […] At noon I go back home to cook, and then in the morning I get up at 6:00 a.m. to prepare for breakfast. For example, there are seven kinds of soup and a variety of dishes for breakfast in one week because I think breakfast is the most important. Then lunch and dinner.
I do all the housework, my husband was born in Gansu province, so he does not have the consciousness of doing housework, but if I arrange some work for him he will do it anyway. Generally, in my view, household is the most important thing for a woman. Happiness of the family is most important of all.(Respondent D)
As the director of the department of Human Resources Management, my responsibility is to do the tasks which are assigned by the superior, to arrange the courses for students, and to coordinate and manage the teachers’ arrangements. That is not exactly management, more like coordination. Plus, I’m responsible for making and amending the syllabus. So far, I spend 20% of my energy on managing the whole department.
Actually I don’t need to answer this question, because I never treat myself as a leader. There is no such social status for me. I am a teacher, and only a teacher… all the women or female leaders I met, all of them, including me, have such feelings. I think it is normal.
I still prefer to be addressed as teacher or my name. Actually, we work for people, instead of being a leader… it’s important to have a good attitude, and put you into others’ shoes. Do not regard yourself as leader and [think] everyone must follow your leadership… There is no such social status for me. I am a teacher and only a teacher.(Respondent F, Department Director).
4.2. How Do They Talk about the Female Leader Identity More Generally?
4.3. In What Ways Is This Talk Intertwined with Larger Societal Discourses of Leadership and Gender?
When a female takes a role in management, it’s important to control her emotion well. From my work experience in past few years, I don’t think females can often manage it well. If a female can do it [manage her emotions] better, she can be an excellent manager.(Respondent F)
Males are much more vigorous, resolute, and decisive. Because they consider things from a different angle, they focus on the overall situation and solving problems more quickly. Females are meticulous and patient, and they focus on details. They solve the problem with systematic guidance and they are very good at dealing with everything in a soft way.
I worked over twenty years, and met more male leaders. On the one hand, male leaders are objective […] There are some advantages for men to be leaders. Firstly, he has more time and energy to do work; secondly, he is rational and reasonable instead of easily being influenced by emotions. Thirdly, […] it is easier for men to make orders. In our university, there are more female teachers, usually speaking, they are more likely to follow the male leaders’ instructions. It is true, though I don’t know the exact reasons.
Even in my student management work, I prefer to assign a job to a boy student instead of girls. Our college has more than 30% boy students and more than 60% girls. Girls are obviously in the majority, but I still would rather assign a job to a boy student. The reason is that I think boy students can do a more satisfying job than girls.
5. Discussion and Conclusions
Conflicts of Interest
- Chinese universities are established, managed, and led by the government as an affiliate organization to the government. University staff belong to the administrative level; senior managers of the school are not only the school leaders, but also officials. University presidents are the top chief executive and academic officer in charge of all affairs. As universities are led by the government, the presidents of universities are appointed directly by the government. In the selection and appointment of principals, the government values the political identity and academic status of the president candidates. That is to say, firstly, the candidate must be a member of the Communist Party of China. Secondly, the academic ability, administrative capacity and management ability of the candidates is taken into consideration (Wang et al. 2013; Li 2007).
- The term ‘homosocial’ is defined (Sedgwick 2015, p. 1) as ‘social bonds between the same sex’ in ‘Between Men’, a groundbreaking study of men’s relationships and their impact on women.
- ‘Guanxi’ is a term that refers to the deeply embedded system of relationships, personal connections, contacts and networks cultivated between people that are important for career success. These are formed over time and are based on trust and reciprocity (Huang and Aaltio 2014).
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|Respondent D||Dean||53 years old; Bachelor’s degree; works at University F; married; has an adult son.|
|Respondent S||Associate Dean||50 years old; Master’s degree; works at University F; married; has an adult son.|
|Respondent O||Department Director||49 years old; Doctor’s degree; works at University N; married; has a high school daughter.|
|Respondent F||Department Director||42 years old; Master’s degree; works at University F; married; has a high school son and a baby boy.|
|Respondent L||Section Chief||34 years old; Master’s degree; works at University F; married; has a baby girl.|
|Respondent R||Teacher (Instructor or lecturer) and Secretary of the Youth League Committee||29 years old; Master’s degree; works at University N; single; no children.|
|Respondent Y||Teacher (Instructor or lecturer) and Secretary of the Youth League Committee||37 years old; Master’s degree; work at University N; married; has a primary school boy.|
|Respondent X||Teacher (Instructor or lecturer) and Secretary of the Youth League Committee||28 years old; Master’s degree; works at University N; single; no child.|
|Respondent W||Teacher (Instructor or lecturer) and Secretary of the Youth League Committee||28 years old; Master’s degree; works at University N; married; pregnant.|
|More time and energy to do work||Understand|
|Reasonable||Influence by emotions|
|Bold||Confront the tough with tenderness|
|Have a whole view of the work/Focusing on the overall situation and solving problems more quickly||Pay more attention on the details/focusing on the details/Meticulous|
|Not easily influenced by emotions||Sentimental|
|Be good at teaching|
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Zhao, J.; Jones, K. Women and Leadership in Higher Education in China: Discourse and the Discursive Construction of Identity. Adm. Sci. 2017, 7, 21. https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci7030021
Zhao J, Jones K. Women and Leadership in Higher Education in China: Discourse and the Discursive Construction of Identity. Administrative Sciences. 2017; 7(3):21. https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci7030021Chicago/Turabian Style
Zhao, Jiayi, and Karen Jones. 2017. "Women and Leadership in Higher Education in China: Discourse and the Discursive Construction of Identity" Administrative Sciences 7, no. 3: 21. https://doi.org/10.3390/admsci7030021