Sisters are Doin' it for Themselves: The Impact of Professional Development Programs for Women

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Title: Sisters are Doin' it for Themselves: The Impact of Professional Development Programs for Women
Author: Murphy, Maura J.
Advisors: Diane Groff, Committee Member
Tuere Bowles, Committee Member
Alyssa N. Bryant, Committee Chair
Abstract: Numerous recent studies have examined the issue of gender parity in higher education (Hora, 2001; Perna, 2001; Wilson, 2005). Despite the progress of the women's movement in the 1970's and legal victories in the 1980's and 1990's, women still have not achieved parity in the number of faculty and administrative positions held, nor in compensation earned (Wilson, 2005). Furthermore, women are perceived as having less power than men, because they participate less often in the decision-making processes on campus (Denton & Zeytinoglu, 1991). The higher education industry addressed this problem by creating various professional development programs for women. While these programs provided much needed opportunities for women to collaborate and network, they inherently assumed that the "problem" that needed to be fixed was that women were not qualified for advancement (Simeone, 1987). The academy failed to consider that the real barrier to gender parity were institutionalized, cultural assumptions. While higher education has made progress in the last twenty years toward gender equity, there remains unintentional discrimination that creates a glass ceiling and prevents parity. This case study sought to examine how having both a professional development program designed to encourage and promote women's leadership, as well as a progressive and accepting culture that encourages women to advance may or may not create the critical mass needed to overcome the barriers to change. The specific research question that drove this inquiry was how does a professional development program for women shape the culture for women at a four year institution? Benefits of professional development programs for women include an increase in self-esteem and self-confidence, increased understanding of the complexity of higher education institutions, and the increased opportunity for career mapping. Women need to gain skills in reflective assessment to help them evaluate the culture of their institution. Institutions need to create mentoring programs to help encourage networking on campus, as well as actively engage in assessment to ensure gender parity. Finally, professional development programs need help participants engage in reflective assessment to better understand and diagnose elements of institutional culture that create a glass ceiling and limit gender equity.
Date: 2007-04-27
Degree: MS
Discipline: Adult and Higher Education

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