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Matilda Rudolph, Christine Mahady, Ed.D., Stephanie Flores-Koulish, Ph.D.

On Women, Marginalized Genders, & Leadership in Jesuit Higher Education Institutions

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As humans, we have been programmed to constantly use binaries to interpret the world around us, asking questions like: Is this right or wrong? Are they fun or boring? Did you win or lose? In taking a close look at these binaries, both the denotations and connotations typically indicate whether something is “good” or “bad.” Thus, when organizing our worlds into binaries, we often unconsciously determine the assigned value of something. One way to understand the impact of patriarchal society is how humans have unconsciously assigned man or male as “good,” and woman or female as “bad.” This has been apparent in the thousands of years of oppression women have experienced, seen in scenarios that involve needing to fight for voting rights or earning the right to divorce. As a Jesuit-educated woman working in the education field, I am especially interested in understanding the associated connotations of man and woman that have influenced the perceptions of men and women’s approaches to leadership in higher education institutions. Specifically, I have designed a study to research the following question: What are women’s perceptions of their approach to leadership in institutions of higher education affiliated with Jesuit charisma?

To answer this question, I have created a research project rooted in qualitative research, specifically through the use of surveys and interviews. I will survey leaders who identify as women at Jesuit higher education institutions from around the country, exploring their understanding of Jesuit leadership and their perception of their gendered approach to leadership. If these leaders desire to continue this conversation, I will interview these leaders to gain a deeper knowledge of their approach to leadership in Jesuit higher educational institutions. I hope my research will provide a foundation for exploring how women leaders in Jesuit higher education institutions can work to pave the way towards dismantling a gendered-based leadership approach. Further, I hope this study will be seen as a resource for leaders to be better equipped to not only handle the pivot away from the divisive characteristics associated with women and men’s leadership approaches, but also to create a foundation for future research into the effects of postgenderism in Jesuit higher educational institutions.

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