Built leadership: women administrators in architectural education


Vol. 6 No. 2 (2009)
Research Articles
December 7, 2009


Of the 114 accredited architecture programs within colleges and universities across America, only 18 (or 16%) employed females at the highest administrative positions as deans, directors, chairs, or heads at the time this study was conducted. Despite this statistic, nearly 50% of all graduates from architecture programs are female. Little is known about women administrators in architectural education, perhaps because of the fact that there are so few. The central question that guided this research study is as follows: What personal and professional factors characterize 10 women employed as administrators in nationally accredited architecture programs, departments, schools, and colleges in American institutions of higher education? Additionally, this study identified the women's career paths, and obstacles they overcame andsacrifices they made in order to advance in their careers. The qualitative case study tradition was employed for this study. Ten women administrators of accredited architecture programs, departments, schools, and colleges within American institutions of higher education participated in the study. Interviews, documents, and observations were collected and included in the data analysis. While feminist leadership theories were used as a lens and guided the current research, themes emerged from the study that point toward a potentially new, emerging theoretical construct. This emerging construct requires that pioneering female leaders in male-dominated fields be characterized differently than female leaders in other contexts. Specifically, the conclusions drawn from this study require characterizing pioneering female leaders in male-dominated fields as built leaders or leaders who have systematically developed professionally as a result of unwavering ambition but who employa post-heroic style of leadership. In other words, these women fought their way to the top, but once there, use an up, down, and across hierarchical leadership style.