College Women’s Leadership Self-Efficacy

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM "College women’s leadership self-efficacy: An examination through the framework of emotionally intelligent leadership," ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN VOLUME 11, ISSUE 1 OF THE NASPA JOURNAL ABOUT WOMEN IN HIGHER EDUCATION.

How women understand and practice leadership is a growing focus in research and in practice. This study was the first of its kind to examine different variables that drive college women’s leadership self-efficacy. The researchers sought to identify which of the 19 capacities of emotionally intelligent leadership (EIL) are significant drivers of college women’s leadership self-efficacy. Four EIL capacities emerged as significant: initiative, facilitating change, developing relationships, and managing conflict. The findings and discussion include specific strategies to support college women’s leadership development and suggest further exploration of gender disparities in college student leadership development.

Much discourse in higher education today focuses on gender differences and disparities among students enrolled in colleges and universities. It is common knowledge that women, as compared to men, attend colleges and universities at higher rates and are more successful on a number of academic measures (Eagan et al., 2016; Eagly & Carli, 2007; Sax, 2008). Although some may assume there is no longer a need to focus specifically on college women, a number of challenges for college women exist that warrant attention (Allan, 2011; Haber-Curran & Linder, 2015). Among these challenges is women’s confidence in their skills and abilities. Research suggests that “first-year college women rate themselves lower than men on nearly every self-rating related to academic or intellectual confidence” (Sax, 2008, p. 25). Yet, college women demonstrate high scores on many academic outcomes, such as academic orientation, academic achievement, time

spent studying, and time spent talking with teachers (Allan, 2011; Eagan et al., 2016; National Survey on Student Engagement [NSSE], 2016; Sax, 2008).

Literature suggests that women often underestimate their skills and abilities (Allan, 2011; Sadker & Zittleman, 2009; Sax, 2008). Likewise, women and girls often attribute their successes to effort and hard work, while men and boys often attribute their successes to ability (Sadker & Zittleman, 2009). Interestingly, when women and girls fail, they often associate their failure with lack of ability as opposed to lack of effort (Sadker & Zittleman, 2009). Other research suggests that how women and girls are socialized contributes to their tendency to underestimate their abilities and downplay their success (Eagly & Carli, 2007; Sax, 2008). “Girls, especially smart girls, learn to underestimate their ability” (Sadker & Zittleman, 2009, p. 122) and come to believe they have to work harder than boys to be successful. Additionally, women often experience the imposter syndrome, whereby they doubt themselves, underestimate their abilities, and essentially feel like a fraud or imposter, even when they have past experiences and skillsets that suggest they will be successful (Young, 2011).

One area with pronounced evidence reflecting this pattern of women underestimating their abilities and demonstrating less efficacy, yet demonstrating strong competence, is in the area of women’s leadership (Calizo, Cilente, & Komives, 2007; Hoyt, 2005; McCormick, Tanguma, & Lopez-Forment, 2002). Low self-efficacy for leadership has negative consequences, such as negatively affecting one’s thought processes, beliefs, behaviors, leadership motivation, and leadership performance (Bass, 1990; Denzine, 1999; Dugan, Kodama, & Correia, 2013).

Leadership development is a prevalent goal and outcome of higher education (Keeling, 2004), and many leadership programs, both cocurricular and curricular, exist on college cam- puses with the aim of developing college student leadership (Komives, Dugan, Owen, Slack, & Wagner, 2011). In fact, some leadership programs exist on college campuses with a particular focus on women’s leadership development, responding to such issues of women’s underrepre- sentation in leadership and gendered expectations of leadership (Haber-Curran & Sulpizio, 2017; Lovette-Colyer & Lovette-Colyer, 2017). Acknowledging the powerful role that self-efficacy can have in individuals’ leadership development, as programs and curriculum are developed, women’s leadership self-efficacy is a concept worth further exploring.

The purpose of this study was to identify the capacities of emotionally intelligent leadership that drive college women’s leadership self-efficacy. We begin with a review of the literature on leadership self-efficacy, women’s leadership self-efficacy, and emotionally intelligent leadership. We proceed with the methodology and share findings from the study, identifying significant drivers of college women’s leadership self-efficacy. The discussion sheds light onto advancing college women’s leadership through practice and research.

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