Sixty Second Interview: Lynne Devnew, D.B.A., Women and Leadership Research Scholar

Sixty Second Interview: Lynne Devnew, D.B.A., Women and Leadership Research Scholar

By Erik Bean, Ed.D.
Associate University Research Chair

A multitude of determined women managers, CEOs, historians, humanitarians, politicians, scientists, and doctors, continue to add extraordinary value and lasting societal contributions. Like these women, Lynne Devnew, D.B.A. is on the move. In addition to publishing and presenting numerous papers on women, identity, and leadership, she was recently bestowed as an honorary Distinguished Faculty as noted via the 2015 University of Phoenix Academic Annual Report.

As the senior research fellow spearheading the Women and Leadership Research Group at the Center for Leadership Studies and Educational Research (CLSER), Devnew is leading a call to inspire other doctoral chairs and students to rise like a Phoenix and join her rigorous scholarly commitment that examines many women and leadership facets. Let’s see how she got started…

Lynne, what is your formal education background?  

“I have a BS from Simmons College in Boston, MA; an MS from Columbia University's Master Degree Program for Executives in New York  City, and a DBA from Boston University, also in Boston.  While with IBM I participated in executive education courses at Emory University in Atlanta, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburg.”  

When did you first begin to champion women's issues?  

“Until recently I merely took advantage of the work others did to champion women's issues.  I was among the first women to manage professionals at IBM.  I often observed to others, I'm not a feminist, but I'm so glad there are women who are and who made it possible for me to do what I do.  For most of my life, my role was to demonstrate women could be excellent leaders rather than to fight for our opportunity to do so.  I thought that was also a pretty important role.  I'm told that when I first became a manager there was "betting" in the halls over how long I'd last.  Fortunately for me, the people I was managing had been at least peripherally involved when I led a large, successful project team as a non-manager, so weren't active in the betting:-). I was only 25.” 

How did you get started with the International Leadership Association’s (ILA) Affinity Group and research on women and leadership?  

“I'll answer this in reverse order.  I got started in women and leadership after I finished my doctorate focused on high technology strategy and realized how little credibility I would have as an older woman in a young man's world.  It eventually occurred to me that of bb my potential credibility was as a woman leader and the idea of becoming a women and leadership researcher was immediately exciting to me.  I got started in the ILA because, while facilitating a residency I was having dinner with Dr. Kelley Conrad who had just had a proposal accepted (with Dr. Anastasia Metros and Dr. Barbara Shambaugh for those of you who have been with SAS for years) for the International Leadership Association's first Women and Leadership Conference. I was feeling sorry for myself, I hadn't submitted a proposal, it was too late, etc. Kelley suggested I send an email and my vita to the person running the conference and volunteer to be involved.  I sent an email to Susan Madsen, who I soon discovered is a woman committed to the development of the women and leadership research community and was immediately part of the team!”

What do you think is the biggest challenge for women in terms of leadership? 

“I think the biggest challenge is that we'd like a simple fix to the women, to men, to the parents of little girls and little boys, to teachers, to organizations, to corporate, national, and global cultures, or to laws to make the leadership playing field balanced for women and men - but there aren't simple fixes.  We can make a difference by addressing each of the areas mentioned, but real change involves changing the entire system, it requires changes to "all of the above."”

Please elaborate on your current research agenda?

“I'm involved in several areas of related research, but will select one. I am on a research team (five very active members, associated with five different universities, currently living in Massachusetts, Utah, Colorado, Texas, and Ontario, Canada) that was formed in 2013.  We were formed a few months prior to a 2014 women and leadership theory development colloquium to develop theory related to women's development of leader identities. When we realized we each self-identified as a woman leader, we decided to begin by studying ourselves and became involved in a wonderful collaborative autoethnographic study.  We have now spent a couple years on childhood; but have at least done the first round of data collection (at a wonderful research retreat) for our study of our college years and first five years post college.  We'll be presenting at ILA in Atlanta - on the role resilience in childhood played in the development of our leader identities.”

How can other prospective researchers get involved?

“Perhaps start by going to the Women and Leadership Research Group in the Center for Leadership Studies and Educational Research!  I have suggested foundational readings and posted ideas for areas needing research (the Asilomar declaration and notes from a think tank at George Washington University).  My blogs include discussions of getting started in the women and leadership research community.  Plan to attend the third biennial Women and Leadership Conference hosted by the International Leadership Association at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York June 11-14, 2017.  And network, network, network!”

To discover more about Lynne and/or to join her CLSER group, follow the above links or email her directly at

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