July 23, 2005
Do women make better university presidents?
They might, according to this article in Inside Higher Ed. A study by James L. Fisher, James V. Koch, and Alice R. McAdory found that "female college presidents are more innovative and entrepreneurial than male presidents. Further, females are more inclined to take measured risks in their jobs than are males." They studied over 700 university presidents, 136 of whom were women. Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:
One source of the entrepreneurial acumen of women presidents appears to depend upon how they relate to innovative colleagues. Female presidents were substantially more likely than male presidents to develop friendships with people who were perceived to be different, as well as to encourage creative individuals with whom they might have disagreed.
[. . .]
Interestingly, our results do not necessarily encourage the frequently espoused view that female college presidents are more democratic in their styles than males, or that they are more inclined to group decision-making than their male counterparts. What is critically different about female presidents is that they are more entrepreneurial than male presidents and more attuned to taking risks.
In the comment thread under the article, one person points out that, assuming women have to be significantly more talented and intelligent than men in any given career in order to be afforded the same status, the women in the researchers' sample would be especially outstanding. He or she (posting under a gender-neutral handle, so I'm not sure) adds, "If the gender ratio was more equal, female college presidents would probably look more like male college presidents." What do you think?