Feminism and media representation (and an apology)

I’m sorry. I missed yesterday.  It wasn’t because I ditched work. Far from it. I was head down in a variety of tasks, none PhD related, all day.  (Yes I’m making excuses.)  For the record I was involved in setting up and curating an exhibition for Wednesday night, I spent 5 hours working on a lecture on arts and cultural policy and social issues and another couple of hours working on a fundraising event for a charity I volunteer for.  And I went to yoga.  It was a very productive day, and I was writing a lot in my head.  Just not here. Sorry.

Today I’m back into feminist readings of leadership literature and theory.  My aim is to get 5 articles read and annotated so I can start writing up another 2,000 words on Wednesday.

Wilkinson, J. & Blackmore, J. 2008, ‘Re‐presenting women and leadership: a methodological journey’, International journal of qualitative studies in education, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 123-36.

This morning I took notes on the above article which I read on Friday.  It is an interesting examination of the representation of women leaders in the media and the comparison with interview data of women in academic leadership positions.

The authors argue that examining the media’s portrayal of women leaders is crucial given the way media shapes the representational framework.  Women interviewed said they didn’t recognise themselves in the way women leaders were displayed in the media, and in turn they often weren’t recognised by peers or students on their respective campuses because they didn’t conform to the media constructed idea of what a female leader is.

The study showed that the majority of representations of female leadership in both the hard (factual news) and soft (lifestyle) sections of the media were of female politicians, and ran with two strong narratives: women as the harbingers of change or women as the ‘golden girls’ who were placed on a pedestal until cracks began to emerge and then they were torn down. (Sounds very familiar but it was written pre-Gillard as PM.)

While the article is interesting from the study perspective, it is also relevant in the use of critical discourse in the analysis. Critical discourse draws on an ensemble of techniques for the study of textual practice and language use as social and cultural practices.  Here is how it links back to some of the other critical leadership studies I worked on last week.


There’s definite implications for consideration of female representation of leaders within the cultural/creative industries. How Liz Ann Macgregor or Dr Gene Sherman, for example,  are reported on versus male leaders.  But also creative leaders in general – my anecdotal view is that the leadership capability of creative leaders is always buried under the idea of ‘talent.’  They aren’t seen as leaders but creative talents.

This then aligns to the 20th century models of leadership – the trait, heroic or ‘great man’ theories. But also the latter transformational theories that have become popular in the 1990s.  This inability to recognise leadership in the arts may be one reason that arts leaders themselves are willing to be recognised as leaders (or see the scope of leadership opportunity there is in the industry.)

Any how, back to annotations.


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