José Manuel Lavié Martínez, Universidad de Sevilla, published ”Feminizing” Middle Management?: An Inquiry Into the Gendered Subtexts in University Department Headship” on July 5th, 2011 in SAGE Open. The entire collection of open access articles from SAGE Open can be found here.
This article summarizes a number of issues emerging in a research in progress that is concerned with the analysis of university department headship from a gender perspective. The article interprets the narratives produced by 20 women as they talk about their experience as heads of departments at three different universities in the city of Barcelona (Spain). The three universities, which are all publicly funded, are going through a similar process of change in many different aspects concerning teaching, research, and management. Overall, what these and other changes mean to middle management is an intensification of administrative workload, an increased capacity required to manage and implement external changes, and a displacement of formerly held prerogatives in the hiring and promotion of the staff. All these issues have emerged in some or other way in the narratives of the 20 heads of department that took part in this study as involving multiple tensions and contradictions that have to be sorted out at the department level. They all carry with them, too, a gender subtext that is not always discernible at first sight.