Friday feminism and feeling flighty

Today was (is) meant to be about feminist reviews of leadership theory.  But I have been struggling all day.  I slept in, I keep getting interrupted by phone calls, and the drizzly weather makes me want to curl up under the quilt and finish Season 2 of Veronica Mars. After such a productive week it’s frustrating, but maybe not surprising.  I don’t have as much time next week to dedicate to long stretches of work, so I really should be making the most of this day. But at the same time I need to know when ‘it’s just not happening’ and cut my losses.  Before I do that I might just jot a few thoughts down.

When I first met with S1 she brought up the issue of gender with regard to my research.  “of course you will have a section on gender” she said.  Like I could not even consider writing about leadership development without it.  I bristled somewhat as I thought gender and leadership development is a whole other arena, one I know needs study, but an area I wasn’t all that interested in.  I didn’t want to include a section on gender to tick an academic box.

You have to acknowledge I was pretty naive.*

Having done just a tiny amount of reading on critical theory and feminist approaches I can see that it would be unthinkable for me not to include a comment about feminism in my thesis.

1. From a practical perspective the creative industries, and particularly the arts, has a female orientated reputation.  Now that means a number of things – one it’s seen as a feminised occupation (which is something I’ll write about later), two – there’s a preconceived view that more women work in the arts. Not necessarily true from the data I can find (which is limited.)  But from personal experience every arts organisation I’ve worked for was 100% female and my students are 100% female.  I haven’t found studies on gender in the creative industries as a whole, but I have to reference a Women in Theatre report written by my supervisor.  It does seem that despite the perceived dominance of women in the sector there is not any greater gender balance in leadership positions. I need to do a lot more research here of course.

2.  Even a small amount of reading on feminist review of theory opens your eyes to how your, and many theorists, work is coloured (pun intended) by a privileged male, white perspective.  This was raised in another context today in a fantastic opinion piece by Waleed Aly in The Age. While not only recognising that women may lead differently, or learn to lead differently, I need to consider how the whole western cannon of leadership theory has been dominated by a particular masculine perspective and way of researching/theorising.

What is interesting about this area is how recent it is.  I read a significant feminist review of leadership theory today that was published in 2010.  Only four years ago? No one thought to think about this sooner? I’m surprised.

So this is a brief post. I’m going back to reading and hopefully share more insights on Monday.

*This is not a question of the importance of feminism or my relationship to feminism.  I am undoubtedly a feminist. I’m constantly disappointed with the lack of understanding of that word and the unwillingness of many to use the label.



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