Leadership aspirations and perceived barriers among female lecturers: a survey of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology
Oloshukoki, Nancy Wanjiru
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Although women have been making professional inroads in the academic community, both in terms of numbers and positions, very few women can be found holding top leadership positions in higher education. This is the case with JKUA T, where, as earlier indicated, the proportion of women holding leadership positions has consistently been below 25%. A question that arises therefore is "what accounts for this low representation of women in higher education leadership?" Previous literature suggests that that there could be some form of gender discrimination in appointment of higher education management staff. Previous studies have also suggested that there are cultural scripts that identify feminine attributes as contributing to ineffective leadership, and thereby reducing the chances of women ascending the leadership ladder. These arguments, even if true, could lead to learned helplessness among potential women leaders, making them to shy away from applying for positions of leadership, in the belief that they will be discriminated against or will fail, in line with what they have read and heard all along. This study therefore sought to find out whether there is a link between learned helplessness and low level of participation of women in higher education leadership. The general objective of the study was to examine the aspirations and perceived barriers to female lecturers' access to leadership positions in institutions of higher learning with specific reference to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya. The specific objectives of the study were to: establish the leadership aspirations of female lecturers in JKUA T; find out the beliefs held by female lecturers about the ease of ascending to leadership positions; examine how the beliefs held by female lecturers about the ease of ascending to leadership positions influence their decisions to apply for leadership positions or not; and make suggestions on how more women can be attracted in higher education leadership in Kenya. The study employed a descriptive survey design, targeting all the female lecturers at JKUAT. Stratified random sampling was employed to select 50 female lecturers representing all the academic departments in the university. Data was collected using a questionnaire. Qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques were used to analyse the data. The findings of the study are reported in summary form using percentages, means, frequency distribution tables, bar graphs and pie charts. The study established that female lecturers have strong leadership aspirations. However, they have weak beliefs about the chances of ascending to leadership positions. This leads to the conclusion that for most female lecturers, despite having qualified for positions of higher education leadership, they fail to apply for such positions, with only 2(4.3%) having applied for leadership positions. The failure to apply for leadership positions despite having aspirations could be explained by negative beliefs formed based on past discriminatory practices, which are not existent today. Recommendations are given to encourage more women to pursue leadership positions in Universities and other sectors of the economy.