The Institute for Women's Leadership is a consortium of teaching, research, and public service units of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The institute and its members are dedicated to examining leadership issues and advancing women's leadership in all arenas of public life – locally, nationally and globally. The interaction among the member units of the consortium encourages scholarly and practical explorations of how institutions are structured by gender, race and ethnicity, socio-economic status and promotes new understanding of women's leadership for social change.
Importance of Women’s Leadership Education and Research
Historically banned by law from certain forms of political participation and excluded by tradition from other areas of political and economic life, women and minorities have long been underrepresented in formal leadership and policymaking positions. Today, in spite of increased attention to these issues and significant gains in educational achievement and career access, women and minorities remain underrepresented in leadership across all sectors.
Relevant research over the past twenty-five years points to several persistent patterns that create barriers to women’s access to top leadership positions and decision making roles. These obstacles include: deeply rooted and often unconscious gender stereotypes that link qualities associated with men with leadership characteristics, while characteristics traditionally associated with women are at odds with those traditionally associated with leadership. Research also suggests that women’s inadequate access to mentors and informal networks of support as well as inflexible workplace structures are also barriers to women’s advancement to leadership. Further, female leaders often lack the presumption of competence accorded their male counterparts; men are overrated and women underrated. Where the number of women is small, as in top leadership contexts, their behavior is subjected to special scrutiny and more demanding requirements. In evaluations, disfavored groups often find their mistakes more noticed and their achievements attributed to luck or special treatment. Consequently, women and minorities remain outsiders in contexts where the greatest public influence in exercised.
IWL Addresses Key Questions About Advancing Women’s Leadership for Social Change
Scholars associated with the Institute for Women’s Leadership’s centers and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies have been at the forefront of examining key questions around diversity and leadership. How do outsiders become leaders? How do they mobilize others to lead social change and transform the institutions that have excluded them? What are the contexts that develop and support diverse leadership? As part of the IWL mission to examine and advance women’s leadership, the members of the consortium have worked both collaboratively and independently to devise and conduct model leadership development programs that work to increase diverse women’s participation in leadership. These programs, our research, and the collective work of the Institute consortium position Rutgers as one of the premier sites for deepening research and expanding curricular and co-curricular opportunities to develop women’s leadership for social change.