Academic dental administrators: A descriptive analysis of leadership among women deans, department chairs, and program directors
Kowalewski, Susan J.
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Improving and increasing women's leadership opportunities in United States dental schools is integral not only to achieving gender equity and appropriately diverse workplaces, but also to insure that the dental schools have competent future direction. The specific purpose of this study was to pinpoint and understand the leadership skills utilized by women who already have become leaders in the field of dental academics. The respondent pool was comprised of all 184 identified female deans from the 56 dental schools in the U.S. and Puerto Rico (10 Deans, 30 Assistant Deans, 49 Associate Deans, 33 Program Directors, and 62 Chairs complemented by a comparison group, obtained by random sampling). Leadership skills were identified and assessed using the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI, 2003) developed by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. Descriptive analysis isolated the predominant leadership characteristics that respondents reported themselves as practicing most- and least often. Total response rate (female and male groups combined) was 64%. The highest percentage of respondents were between the ages of 55–59; 91% were Caucasian; 82% (77% of females, 88% of males) held DDS or equivalent degrees. This study's results corroborate previous data concerning continuing gender inequities in dental academe's leadership, despite the fact that females now comprise nearly half of most dental-schools' graduating classes. To date, most dental schools have failed also to address issues such as the glass ceiling (as reflected, for example, in the disproportionately small representation of women in dental schools' tenured faculty ranks), or multiple roles with which working women contend on a daily basis. Previous research has reported that, for some years, academic dentistry has suffered chronic faculty shortages. This study's demographic findings, particularly those revealing the preponderance of top leaders in academic dentistry now perilously close to retirement age, presage academic dentistry's near-term leadership vacuum. This research is specific to leaders in academic dentistry and the impact upcoming retirements and dentists leaving academia for private practice (Weaver, Haden, Valachovic, 2001) add a sense of urgency to the assessment, implementation and application of these findings.