Special issue


A recognised challenge for women in higher education learning and teaching is of rightfully claiming leadership. Higher education processes for recruitment, promotion, awards, grants and fellowship are founded on an ability to document and convincingly present one’s leadership contribution. The focus is on evidencing from a traditional, formal positional role view of leadership. However, the leadership contribution of women to learning and teaching often accords with a more distributed leadership approach. This may lead to women, unguided in how to evidence their leadership contribution and impact, being unable to self-acknowledge and claim their leadership contribution. The challenge for women is in claiming their leadership contribution and impact so as not to be disadvantaged in academic career progression and recognition. Drawing on a database of 15 years of research into a distributed leadership in learning and teaching, a Linguistics Inquiry approach is employed to explore reflections of female academics to their leadership contributions in learning and teaching. This reveals evidence-based strategies that have successfully supported a positive transition, by women, to self-acknowledge their leadership contributions. Many of these are resource intensive and difficult to sustain in the current higher education sector context of diminishing and reduced resources. To present a low-resource alternative, the six tenets of a Distributed Leadership approach structure a low-resource framework alternative that provides key conceptual prompts for presenting a leadership case. Vignettes of applying the framework in practice are provided to illustrate its transferability across a range of scenarios for women to rightfully claim their leadership contribution.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Women academics are more proportionally represented at the lower and mid-career academic roles and in learning and teaching roles. Programs and strategies to support women in leadership have been resource intensive and achieved limited outcomes in terms of career progression.
  2. The challenge identified for women is how to rightfully claim their leadership. There is a lack of guidance on how to self-identify the diverse leadership roles they, as academics focused on learning and teaching may be undertaking, but not recognising.
  3. Our proposal is to move away from evidencing from a traditional, formal positional role view of leadership to one of evidencing with a distributed leadership approach. The basic tenets of distributed leadership have potential as a guidance mechanism for developing a case for leadership, that is simple in structure and economical in cost.
  4. Based on the tenets of distributed leadership. the 6Es, we have designed a 6 step, low-resource framework – the Claiming leadership with the 6E framework. This framework enables women to systematically develop a robust, evidence-based case for claiming leadership with confidence, with the 6Es providing the structural lexicon on which to build a case.

Twitter Handle