The Women and Leadership Theory Think Tank Report

Dr. Susan R. Madsen released the Women and Leadership Theory Think Tank Report, sponsored by George Washington University.  Twenty-five leading women scholars gathered to discuss three issues related to women and leadership: the current status of female leadership theory, gaps in research, and the future of women leadership research.  The report is full of fodder for thought and potential research projects.  I recommend reading it.  Here is the link to the report:  I am interested in your thoughts on this report.

Phil Davidson's picture Phil Davidson | May 24, 2017 4:36 am MST

Thank you for posting this report.  It was interesting to read.  After reading the think tank report, I can appreciate the large number of issues considered.  I do believe, based on my own research and understanding, that the report has missed some important issues -- or at least the understanding of some of the root causes.  

In my work in Saudi Arabia, there was a lot of discussion about women as leaders. The Saudi government has, for over a decade, actively sought to promote women. Women now sit on the Shura Council. However, when you talk to women leaders in Saudi Arabia, there is a deep set of values around family and their role with the family that keeps them from the highest levels of leadership.  

I am not arguing that this is right or wrong, but my research has demonstrated the strength of these values. Patriarchy is certainly an issue, but one that is changing. However, the deep seated values of Saudi women about their ultimate responsibility to the family first is not something that can be changed through meetings and changes in the law.

I have studied "values" for 20 years. That was the core of my doctoral dissertation. Core values are very difficult to change.  Sometimes even life-changing events will not change these. It is a complicated topic which may well be tied into our genetic structure, but academic discussions about what people value often treats values as types of clothing that can be changed whenever you desire, which is not the case. 

This report briefly mentions the "value of ambition," which is only a support value, but the think tank are, in my opinion, missing a deeper understanding of the importance of values behind the issue of women in leadership.

Daniel Roberts's picture Daniel Roberts | May 24, 2017 6:24 am MST


I think too that your comments underscore the importance of studying formulations, like leadership, within specific cultural settings.  The intersectionality of culture, gender, religion, and other social frameworks are complex and cannot be taken lightly.

Lynne Devnew's picture Lynne Devnew | May 24, 2017 7:12 am MST

Hi Dan and Phil,

I just came to the site to post the report and a picture of the participants as I was part of the Think Tank.  Excited to see you found the report valuable and had already posted it.  I had posted my original notes from the think tank in the reading list and will add this final report there also (when I figure out how to do so)!  I've also added a picture of theThink Tank  participants.  

Continuing the topic of values, I'm going to copy in the concluding sentence from the book chapter I co-authored on "Women's Leadership Aspirations" from the The Handbook of Research on Gender and Leadership that was also featured in Susan's announcements and which should be rolling out as a UOPX announcement.    I think there is a relationship between Phil's findings and our conclusion in the chapter:  "Thus, when women see leadership behaviors as desirable behaviors, when they see those behaviors as consistent with their own self-images, when they believe they are prepared and have the capability to be leaders, and when they see the value of the impact they can make as leaders to be more important than the personal losses they believe they would suffer if they chose to be leaders, only then will women’s aspirations for leadership increase. "



Erik Bean's picture Erik Bean | May 24, 2017 6:20 pm MST

I am so grateful everyone is sharing their news and thoughts here!  Outstanding. To dovetail off Lynne's news, you can read more on her book venture here. All the best. -- Erik

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