EducatingWomenF E A T U R E DT O P I CM A RY K . T R I G GA women’sleadershipdevelopmentprogram can insertleadership asboth theory andpractice morecentrally into thewomen’s studiescurriculum andresearch agendaIT WAS Colleen Connolly, a DouglassCollege senior, who planted the seed in 1996for a women’s leadership program for undergraduates at Rutgers University. She was anintern at the Institute for Women’s Leadership,a unique collaboration of academic centers andunits that came together as a consortiumaround the shared mission of examining andadvancing women’s leadership in education,research, politics, the workplace, and the world.Institute members included Douglass College;the Department of Women’s and GenderStudies; the Center for American Womenand Politics; the Institute for Research onWomen; the Center for Women’s GlobalLeadership; and the Center for Women andWork. While the directors of these units hadbrainstormed about a cluster of shared programs, fittingly it wasa student who, afterinterviewing representatives of all the unitsabout their work, came up with the idea ofmining the riches of the institute for studentlearning. She was particularly struck by thepower and potential that internships held forundergraduate education, and envisioned arequired internship and practicum as a centralcomponent of such a leadership educationprogram.In recent years, a number of leadership programs have been created for women in business,women who head nonprofit organizations,women in professions like law and medicine,and women students. Although there are overfive hundred colleges and universities in theUnited States (and a growing number aroundthe world) that offer programs on leadershipand leadership development, there are farfewer that offer programs specifically onwomen’s leadership, and that are affiliatedwith academic departments rather than studentlife offices. This article describes a women’sleadership development program at RutgersUniversity that draws on the rich scholarshipin gender studies to reimagine leadership, toMARY K. TRIGG isdirector of leadership programsand research at the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.22LIBERAL EDUCATION WINTER 2006accelerate young women to leadership, and toprepare them as educated citizens who willmake a difference in the world.The Leadership Scholars Certificate Program reflects the institute’s commitment toand definition of leadership as inclusive andparticipatory, and linked to an obligation towork for positive social transformation (Hartman 1999). Although feminist leadership isnot a commonly used term, the institute’s definition of women’s leadership implies feminism, and has similarities with Leila Rupp’sdefinition of feminism as “a worldview thatranks gender a primary category of analysis orexplanatory factor for understanding the unequal and unjust distribution of power and resources in society” (Rupp 1981, 283).Developing such a worldview can enable people engaged in leadership development notonly to better understand women’s continuinglack of access to power and resources, but mayalso stimulate them to challenge the lack ofaccess of other social groups as well. Withsuch an approach, gender becomes a categoryof analysis for seeing and understanding theskewed nature of how positional leaders areselected and rise to power, and how resourcesare distributed.Leadership development for women, then,can be a subversive educational tool. It canenlighten corporate women about gender dynamics in organizations that keep womenfrom getting ahead, for example, or attractyoung college women who might not otherwise consider taking a women’s studies class tocome into the discipline through the entrypoint of leadership. Stark figures aboutwomen’s underrepresentation in governanceand politics around the world, in officer positions, or as board members in American corporations can stimulate a commitment to theadvancement of women’s leadership (seeRhode 2003). Leadership education situatedin a women’s studies framework encouragesstudents to question existing social structures,particularly as they are made aware of thepaucity of women as decision makers in publicoffice, in institutions of higher education,business, and other social arenas. It also
Leadersprovides a forum for critically investigatingwomen’s historical and contemporary roles asleaders in communities, in the home, in grassroots groups, and in volunteer organizations.Leadership has not been a key concern inthe field of women’s studies, which for thepast quarter century has concentrated moreon exploring the connections between race,class, and gender, and critiquing the socialconstructions that have negatively impactedwomen’s lives. Social change was key to thedevelopment of women’s studies, however,which began in American higher education asthe academic arm of the women’s movement.A women’s leadership development programcan insert leadership as both theory and practice more centrally into the women’s studiescurriculum and research agenda, while it promotes liberal learning by making connectionsbetween theories about women’s lives andpolicies and actions that impact their lives.for theTwenty-firstCenturyThe Leadership Scholars ProgramA two-year, nineteen-credit program for undergraduate women, the Leadership ScholarsCertificate Program combines classroomlearning, research and policy internships, andindependent social action projects to give participants a distinctive learning experiencethat is at once theoretical and practical. Theprogram seeks to expand students’ understanding of leadership, policy making, andsocial change and to encourage them to takeresponsibility for making change. Desired program outcomes are linked to research thatsuggests women leaders share common traitsin the areas of leadership skills, interpersonalskills, problem-solving and decision-makingabilities, and personal organization and timemanagement (Aurora and Caliper 2005).Fifteen to eighteen students are chosen in aselective process each year, so that aboutthirty-five students participate annually in thetwo-year sequence. Although a small programin a large research university, it is a replicablemodel for other institutions of higher education and a laboratory for examining what happens when, to use Elizabeth Tidball’s phrase,women are taken seriously. Her philosophyRutgers, the StateUniversity of New JerseyWINTER 2006 LIBERAL EDUCATION23
T O P I CF E A T U R E Dabout women’s colleges applies as well to thiswomen’s leadership education program:What works for women resides within thewholeness of the environment, originatingfrom a mission in which women are takenseriously. It has to do with creating a community in which women have a clear senseof ownership, knowing that they make adifference and knowing that they matterand that they truly belong and always will.What is essential is not to be found inquantifiable categories. (Tidball 1999, 140)The four goals of the program are consistentwith the goals of liberal education in their emphasis on high-quality undergraduate education, as well as welfare of the community andquestions of the common good. They are (1) tooffer students an opportunity to deepen theirunderstanding of leadership and women’s contributions to social change; (2) to enhancestudents’ leadership abilities through a concentrated academic sequence and extracurricularofferings; (3) to provide an opportunity for students to learn the issues and problems specificto their disciplinary fields and to develop waysto implement a social action project; and (4) tobuild bridges between the university and thecommunity by connecting women students withcommunity representatives and women leadersand by providing career-building internships incorporations and nonprofit organizations.Students in the program earn a certificatein women’s leadership from the Departmentof Women’s and Gender Studies and the Institute for Women’s Leadership that complementstheir baccalaureate degrees. This kind of education addresses the estrangement of liberal andprofessional studies by bringing together highachieving students who share a commitmentto both community welfare and women’s leadership for social change with majors as diverseas comparative literature and marketing, history and cell biology, and the visual arts andphysics. Using gender as the lens and women’sleadership as the tool, they explore the policyareas that are embedded in their disciplinesand that cross disciplines: health, law, poverty,politics, work, human rights, arts/literature/media, and education. Students select one ofthese “tracks” to follow through the program,and all of their work in the two-year sequencerelates to it. This interdisciplinary learninghas a strong connection to policy; it might becalled applied women’s studies.24LIBERAL EDUCATION WINTER 2006Like liberal education, the Leadership Scholars Program aims to be representative of ourdiverse democracy. Students in the programare racially diverse: over the past seven years,40 percent of the students enrolled in the program have been women of color. This reflectsthe rich racial and ethnic diversity of the Rutgers student body, and adds to the multiplicityof perspectives that inform and enrich theprogram. It could also suggest that leadershiptraining is attractive to minority students,who face the double challenge of bias on thebasis of gender and race, and may recognizeleadership development as something theyneed even more than do white students.The program structureThe program includes three main components:coursework, an internship/field site experience, and a social action project. It includesfive required women’s studies classes, including a seminar on women and leadership, inwhich leadership is studied through intensivereadings in United States and global women’shistory, combined with theoretical and structural studies of gender in society, as well ascase studies of women leaders.The internship seminar, taken in the secondsemester, focuses on women, work, and community and combines theoretical readingsabout women in the workplace with a practical experience in a work or field site. It exposes students to issues women face in theworkplace, including the wage gap, the challenge of having both families and careers, andthe ways that gender schemas often disadvantage working women. The seminar also reinforces the importance of young women’scivic engagement and participation in thepolitical process.Organizations that sponsor our interns include local nonprofits such as a domestic violence shelter, a health clinic that serves thelargely Mexican immigrant community of NewBrunswick, New Jersey (where the university islocated), and an institute that teaches art to underserved urban high school students. Such internship placements help bridge the gapbetween university and community, while developing students’ ethical capacities and senseof civic purpose. With the help of a foundationcommitted to youth civic engagement, the institute is making these community partnershipspart of the ongoing structure of the program.
WINTER 2006 LIBERAL EDUCATION25T O P I Cbetween the university and the community,fulfilling Adrienne Rich’s compelling idea ofthe role a university might play in addressingcommunity-specific problems:A university responsible to women’s needswould serve the needs of the human, visiblecommunity in which it sits—the neighborhood, the city, the rural county, its true environment. . . . [T]he university shouldaddress itself to the microcosms of nationalproblems and issues that exist locally, and itshould do so with the greatest possiblesense that it will not simply be giving, butbe receiving, because academe has a greatdeal to learn from women and from otherunprivileged people. (1992, 147)Leadership projects can teach that “failure”and “success” are not always easy to define,and can lead to the resiliency and perseverance that are demanded of leaders. Such anexperience offers women students the uniqueopportunity to take risks in a supportive environment. One model of leadership development described by Karin Klenke includesthree components: challenge, recognition,and support. These are described as follows:(1) the challenge of new situations and difficult goals prompts leaders to learn thelessons that will help them perform athigher levels; (2) recognition includes acknowledgment of achievements and rewards for accomplishments, along withresources to continue high performance;while (3) support entails acceptance andunderstanding, along with the benefits thathelp a leader incorporate her leadership roleinto a full and fulfilling life (1996, 248).The program strives to include challenge,recognition, and support in its model for theleadership project.Although three-credit, one-semester requirements, these projects can launch longterm commitments to civic engagement. Forexample, a philosophy major doing her workin the program on poverty interned with theNational Congress of Neighborhood Women,a Brooklyn group whose mission is to empowergrassroots women’s leadership in their communities. For her project, she began a discussiongroup among women who lived in a NewBrunswick public housing project slated to betorn down through a federal urban revitalization grant program. This student won a Fullbright fellowship the following year toF E A T U R E DIn addition, the program has built up a listof internship sites beyond the local community; this includes national women’s organizations in nearby New York City, progressivecorporations, and state government offices.Students intern 140 hours over one semester,learning about the organization’s mission andhow it is fulfilled, women’s leadership in organizations, and gaining valuable professionalexperience and skills development. In somecases they reach across differences as theywork with constituencies unlike themselves,further developing themselves as citizens andsocial actors (Trigg and Balliet 2001). The internship experience encourages students tomove from the individual to the structural:this expanding worldview is deepened evenfurther in the social action project experience.The social action project, conducted duringthe third semester, provides a “sphere of action”that requires students to practice leadership.In early Greek and Latin, the word leadershipis derived from the verb “to act,” and this definition informs the project. As Elizabeth Tidball writes (2000, 30), “even outstandingability needs to be trained, directed, providedwith a sphere of action, and rewarded in orderto flourish.” The student-designed projects reflect the variety of their interests and provideconcrete examples of the students’ capacity totransform knowledge into action, and to address vexing social issues such as illiteracy, educational disparities in urban schools, or thehealth of Latina women. Each student is givena 500 stipend to implement her project, forwhich she is required to write a formal fundingproposal, modeled on one that would be givento a foundation.In exit surveys and interviews conductedwith the seven graduating classes, this component of the program has been consistently ratedthe highest. Notable projects have includedthe founding of a campus newspaper encouraging unity among diverse Asian groups at theuniversity, the creation of a literacy awarenessprogram at the local health center, a poetryworkshop and publication at a Jewish homefor the aged, and a one-day leadership workshop for urban high school girls that the institute is now expanding into an after-schoolprogram. Leadership projects like these servethe community as they advocate social changeto improve the lives of both men and women.Student ambassadors can bridge the gulf
T O P I CF E A T U R E DRutgers, the StateUniversity ofNew Jerseyresearch grassroots women’s community development organizations in Ecuador, and wroteabout the insights that the leadership program’sconnection between experiential learning andacademic study had given her. “In my researchhere,” she wrote from Ecuador,I am learning a great deal about the lives ofwomen in poverty as well as applying someof the theory that I learned at Rutgers to myexperiences and observations. . . . I benefitedfrom exploring grassroots women’s issues ona practical level through my experiences inthe IWL program. . . . Although it sometimes feels like a world away from New Jersey, I have discovered that discussions withother women on gender equality—whetherit be in a remote jungle community, a poorneighborhood in Quito, or a classroom inHickman Hall—don’t really differ all thatmuch! (Goldenberg 2001, 6)Now, five years after her graduation, thisyoung woman leader is a staff member of thissame advocacy organization where she interned, and recently joined a delegation ofgrassroots women who spoke to governmentrepresentatives at the United Nations aboutglobal poverty, in the hopes of impacting theMillennium Development Goals.The importance of women’s leadershipdevelopment in liberal educationWhy does women’s leadership developmentmatter? What is its importance in higher education and in educating women citizens forthe twenty-first century? Women’s leadershipdevelopment is based on the premise thatwomen historically have been excluded fromformal leadership positions and continue to bedramatically underrepresented. It recognizesthe important roles that women have played26LIBERAL EDUCATION WINTER 2006in informal positions of leadership, and asksthat we examine women’s leadership at thesame time that we try to advance it. It suggeststhe limitations of exclusive leadership as ithas (and continues to be) practiced in arenaswhere far-reaching decisions are made, and itrecognizes the issue of gender differences inopportunities for leadership.There are powerful and compelling arguments for why women’s leadership makes a difference and why we should care about thedearth of women in leadership positions, bothin the United States and globally. Women’sleadership can be a vital source of change in anincreasingly dangerous world. “The world needswomen to take more leadership,” CharlotteBunch, director of the Center for Women’sGlobal Leadership, has written. “Women at thismoment in history bring new perspectives andvalues to the table that can revitalize and transform debates and options in a globe that isthreatened with self-destruction based onpast—predominantly male—leadership” (Institute for Women’s Leadership 2002, 17). The urgency to develop and tap women’s leadership isever more critical in our post-9/11 world. Anumber of scholars have argued that women dobring something different to the leadershiptable, that they make different kinds of leadersthan men. A new study of executive womenconcludes that women’s style of leadership isdifferent from men’s; the authors describe it asinclusive, open, consensus building, collaborative, and collegial (Aurora and Caliper 2005).Using the perspective of politics, Susan Carroll,Rutgers professor at the Center for the American Women and Politics, has suggested thatwomen political leaders feel a responsibility torepresent women and their interests. Drawingon interviews done by the Center for American
To respond to this article, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org,with the author’s name on the subject line.REFERENCESAurora and Caliper. 2005. “The DNA of women leaders”:A research study. Princeton, NJ: Caliper Corp.Goldenberg, D. 2001. Putting lessons to work inEcuador. Women’s & Gender Studies at Rutgers-NewBrunswick Newsletter, Spring: 6.Hartman, M. S., ed. 1999. Talking leadership: Conversations with powerful women. New Brunswick, NJ:Rutgers University Press.Institute for Women’s Leadership. 2002. Power for what?Women’s leadership: Why should you care? NewBrunswick, NJ: Institute for Women’s Leadership.Klenke, K. 1996. Women and leadership: A contextualperspective. New York: Springer.Lipka, S. 2004. Feminine critique: A study of womena
Leadership development for women, then, can be a subversive educational tool. It can enlighten corporate women about gender dy-namics in organizations that keep women from getting ahead, for example, or attract young college women who might not other-wise consider taking a women’s studies class to come into the discipline through the entry