Empowering Jordanian Women as Leaders in Higher Education

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Increasing numbers of women have gained access to universities and the college teaching profession worldwide. However, women continue to be underrepresented in academic, research and leadership positions. Empowerment of academic women to become leaders in Higher Education (HE) means giving them the power to think, the chance to act freely, a sense of self-confidence, ability to believe in their capability to make required changes as equal to male leaders in higher education. Empowerment of women as leaders in Higher Education (HE) is a gender issue facing all women leaders in societies around the globe to some lesser or greater degree as well as in Jordan (AL-Qudah and Trawneh, 2011). Even women in higher education have made great gains and are now eaTI1ing more degrees than men but women still trail in top academic leadership they are underrepresented among the ranks of tenured faculty and full professors who wield much of the power to hire and tenure colleagues as well as to prioritize areas of research. Many women still hold the view that they are not capable of accomplishing and excelling in society and the workplace (Smith, 2005) which could be the main reason why women are not occupying leadership positions. Despite women having worked their way into leadership positions, gender imbalance in Higher Education (HE) is a global concern with progress towards equity very slow and uneven (Odhiambo, 2011). The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the leading association of faculty in the US, noted in 2006 that “even though women faculty member’s achievements in higher education have enormously increased, empowering women in higher education is still incomplete” (Al-Ghamdi, 2016). The main purpose of this study is to provide information about empowering Jordanian women as leaders at Hashemite University (HU) by exploring the relationship among leadership, perceptions of Barriers to Woman’s Empowerment (EWES), Psychological Empowerment (FEM) and Administrative Creativity (AC) and the impact of the leadership on these study variables. This study contributes to knowledge of gender-based leadership and female empowerment into leadership positions in the higher education sector in Jordan. The increasing emolument of women at all levels in various aspects of life in Jordan, especially in a leadership position has resulted in the need of understanding the challenges encountered by these women and how these challenges are related to other variables. Theoretical framework and previous research Women’s empowerment in higher education: Empowerment is an interdisciplinary construct heavily grounded in the theories of community psychology. Higher Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process. Higher education provides opportunities to women to fulfill their needs. The concept of empowerment is understood at its core definition as the progression of moving from a weak position to a higher position of executing power (Al-Rousan,2014). Empowerment in its wide perspective is based on three dimensions, namely, empowering management practices, empowered individuals and empowering working environments (Spreitzer, 1995). Researchers generally divide the concept of empowerment into two types: relational bor Administrative Empowerment (AEM) and Psychological Empowerment (FEM). Burke et al. (2006) and Cornwall and Perlman (1990) view empowerment as sharing power and authority (a relational perspective) while definitions by Randolph (1995) and Conger and Kanrmgo (1988) view empowerment as a motivational construct (a psychological perspective).

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Some scholars argue that both aspects are combined for a most thorough understanding of the concept since, the (FEM) is resulted by (AEM). Administrative empowerment is described as top-down processing (Conger and Kanungo, 1988) and the access to organizational structures within the work environment by means of lines of communication, resources, support and information, all of which provide employees with opportunities to share in the decision-making processes as well as helping in resource control and job growth (Kanter, 1989). It is the belief that empowerment occurs when higher levels within a hierarchy share power with lower levels within the same hierarchy (Spreitzer, 1997). On the other hand, the psychological perspective of empowerment focuses on the employee’s perception of empowerment (Spreitzer, 1995, 1997; Thomas and Velthouse, 1990). Researchers studying psychological empowerment, maintain that empowerment is achieved only when psychological states produce a perception of empowerment within the employee (Mishra and Spreitzer, 1998; Quinn and Spreitzer, 1997). Quinn and Spreitzer (1997) asserted that one perspective of empowerment is not necessarily better than the other. They propose that a possible reason why empowerment programs fail is that company decision-makers are divided on how they perceive the best way to empower employees, utilizing either the relational or the psychological approach. It is suggested that to develop a truly empowering program, elements must be dravVll from both perspectives.

Psychological empowerment and administrative creativity: Psychological empowerment which is the main focus of the current study is defined as the process of improving the feelings of self-efficacy within an organization’s members and that emphasizes enhanced task motivation, being expressed through the four dimensions: meaning, competence, self-determination and impact (Spreitzer, 1995). Spreitzer (1995) developed her four-component model of FEM that measures an employee’s sense of meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact. Spreitzer (1995) defines meaning to be when an individual perceives a connection between their job and their OvVll personal standards (Thomas and Velthouse, 1990). Meaning occurs when one’s job tasks and one’s personal values, beliefs and behaviors possess a degree of fit (Brief and Nord, 1990). Competence is an individual’s belief that he/she possesses the ability to perform necessary activities. Self-determination is defined as an individual’s perception of choice in the tasks that he/she undertakes (Deci et al., 1989). Impact is the amount of influence a person feels he/she has on certain work outcomes. These four components or states (Spreitzer, 1995) cites as being necessary for empowerment interventions to be effective.

Widespread interest in psychological empowerment comes at a time when global competition and change require employee initiative innovation and performance

(Drucker, 1988). Creative behavior is defined as behavior that results in identifying original and better ways to accomplish some purpose (Amabile, 1988) and developing solutions to job-related problems that are judged as both novel and appropriate for the situation (Shalley, 1995). Experimental studies have shown strong associations between the empowerment practices described by Bowen and Lawler (1992) and leadership creativity or Administrative Creativity (AC). This includes encouraging creative and actual creative behavior. Bowen and Lawler (1992) in their search about empowerment programs in private enterprises noted that many of these programs fail when they focus only on sharing power and power without redistributing information, knowledge, and rewards. Effective use of empowerment involves managers sharing with their employees four organizational components: information on the performance of the organization, rewards based on the performance of the organization, knowledge that enables workers to understand and contribute to organizational performance and authority to make decisions that affect the direction and organizational performance (Bowen and Lawler, 1992). These four elements interact with each other, leading to a multiplicative rather than an additive effect on performance. The granting of authority and discretion delegated to employees is very important to stimulate creativity because it provides self-government to act in accordance with new and innovative ways that move away from the standard work procedures (Fernandez and Moldogaziev, 2011). Barriers to women empowerment in higher education: Barriers to leadership opportunities are a global phenomenon where women, when compared to men, are disproportionately concentrated in lower-level and lower-authoritative leadership positions (Northouse, 2015). Women in HE to this day, struggle to find their voices and positions within male-dominated professional cultures (Jones and Palmer, 2011) but women still face numerous obstacles and barriers to obtaining administrative positions in academic institutions. Some of them are internal whereas others are external. Internal barriers originate from the women themselves including choice, aspirations and mentor relationships. Lack of mentoring is an important barrier that faces women in HE and stands in their way to reach leadership positions. Mentoring is among the factors identified as contributing to the success of female professionals and managers (Arifeen, 2010). The presence of mentors may reduce job stress as women may not have a peer group to rely on for psychological support. Salah el al. (2017) indicated that

the most leadership challenges faced by Jordanian women are organizational networks and interpersonal relationships. Conversely, external barriers are derived from outside forces over which women have no control. These are comprised of family obligations, bias and discrimination of all types, social expectation and stereotyping, lack of administrative experiences, corporate practices and the tenure clock. External biases against women diminish the contributions educated women can make as leaders which is further complicated by a lack of mentor relationships from other women a two-pronged void. Women using career advancement strategies such as being proactive and asking for more opportunities, become disappointed when they are advanced less or receive slower pay growth than their male counterparts. More frustrating to women is the realization that they lag men in level and power even though they are using the same advancement strategies as the men to get ahead (Carter and Silva, 2011). Family responsibility, namely children, create a barrier for women to progress to senior management positions (Wood and Newton, 2006). Women are less likely than men to be associated with leadership and the awareness of this stereotype may determine women’s performance in leadership tasks (Latu et al., 2013). Society has specific views of what women’s roles should be and their role in the wider society. Bergeron et al. (2006) argue there is a continued belief that when people think of a manager, they immediately assume it is a male, resulting in women’s level of competency in these positions being subject to questioning and viewed as less effective managers than men. Brannon et al. (2016) suggest that female roles carry over the workplace atmosphere which can create a certain stereotyped and sexualized atmosphere. Stereotypes of women leaders within the workplace result in making women perceived as less favorable than equivalent male leaders because by fulfilling expectations concerning leadership these violate conventions concerning appropriate female behaviors.

Eagly and Carli (2007) asserted that gender stereotypes and prejudices are major obstacles in women’s ascent to the institutions’ heights, with judgments of competence, aptitude and intrinsic leadership ability often stacked against women as well as charges of eleven treatment and performance appraisal. A study conducted by Jogulu (2010) between males and females, highlights that women scored higher in being better leaders than men in their tests. The fact was underlined that women have always had a desire to lead but have been considerably handicapped and politically, economically and socially restricted. In organizations and institutions, working long hours is an indication of being

ambitious and committed. Liff and Ward (2001) suggest that mothers and yummy wives find this a challenge because as much as they take their careers seriously, they have to make time for their families including children and husbands (Eagly and Carli, 2007). Also, one of the barriers that have been recognized to prevent women from ascending to senior management positions has been described by the metaphor “the glass ceiling”. The “glass ceiling” represents a hidden difficulty for women and other minority groups which prevents them from moving into senior management (Weyer, 2007). The general-case glass ceiling hypothesis states that not only is it more difficult for women than for men to be promoted up levels of authority hierarchies within workplaces but also that the obstacles women face relative to men become greater as they move up the hierarchy (Akpinar-Sposito, 2013). The glass ceiling is a concept that most frequently refers to barriers faced by women who attempt to attain senior positions in corporations, government, education and nonprofit organizations (Akpinar-Sposito, 2013).

Appelbaum et al. (2003) prove that female employees find the work environment welcoming and very threatening, due to cultures that are dominating it directly or indirectly, discrimination against females. Oakley (2000) points out that these invisible barriers for women include corporate practices such as training and career development, promotion policies and compensation practices. Even when in higher positions, women have to keep proving themselves as capable leaders. ClITI}’ (2000) ascertains that women who ascend into higher leadership levels, must often contend with culturally engrained views of self-assurance and confidence as WIBcceptable female qualities.

Jordanian women at higher education institutions: A closer look at the situation of Jordan in terms of women’s participation in the labor force and their representation in the upper levels of the academic pyramid or the institutional hierarchy reveals an even worse condition comparing to the rest of the world. According to The Global Gender Gap Report 2016, Jordan ranked the 141th in the Gender Equality List out of 193 countries armed the world. Moreover, the participation of Jordanian women in parliament stood at 12% (Anonymous, 2016a, b). Also, the results of a recent study (Al-Mashagbeh, 2015) revealed a decline in the percentage of female university staff members in Jordanian universities, reflecting the lack of empowerment and adequate representation of Jordanian women in the higher education sector. This further is a logical reflection of the same daunting problem which can be easily detected in various national sectors today. Moreover, the results of the field study conducted by the Jordanian Ministry of Public Sector Development (Anonymous, 2015) at the beginning of 2015 showed that female employees in the public sector account for 44.95% of total employees. However, this percentage declined to 29% of the total number of employees holding leadership and supervisory positions. The lowest percentage of women representation was in leadership positions at (Assistant Secretary-General/Assistant Managing Director!Head of Department) levels where women held 6.73% in total. In light of this study, it has been found that there are challenges standing in the face of women’s empowerment and advancement towards supervisory and leadership positions. One of these obstacles is the lack of sufficient opportunities for women to enroll in training and capacity building programs to compete for senior leadership positions in the government (Anonymous, 2015).

Women as leaders at higher education institutions in Jordan: Despite the absence of data on the number of women working in various locations and fields at universities as such data has not yet been collected, Jordanian women contribute well to universities in Jordan. The statistics of higher education in Jordan for the academic year 2014-2015, issued by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, confirmed that the number of male and female members of faculties in the different public and private universities in Jordan reached 10,675 of whom 2,836 were women with a percentage of 26.5% (Anonymous, 2016a, b). According to women faculty members at Jordanian universities distribution by educational degree, it is found that 1,424 of them hold a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree, making up 17.3% of the total Ph.D. holders from both genders (No 8.231) working in academia and 1,231 hold master’s degree, making up 56.9% of the total master’s degree holders from both genders (No= 2.163) working in academia. Statistics also show that 8 women hold higher diplomas and 173 women hold bachelor degrees (Anonymous, 2016a, b) (Table!). In accordance to women faculty members at Jordanian universities distribution by specialization it is found that 530 of whom work in the field of literature, 334 in educational sciences, 331 in engineering, 281 in commerce and business, 211 in information technology, 199 in natural sciences, 199 in pharmaceutical sciences, 187 in nursing while the rest are distributed among various fields of education (Anonymous, 2016a, b) (Table !).

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Empowering Jordanian Women as Leaders in Higher Education. (2020, May 13). Retrieved February 6, 2023 , from

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