Social Justice and Feminist
Leadership: Sharing the Unique Perspectives and Universal Concepts
Heather Shea Gasser, Director, Women’s Center
Working with social justice and feminist organizations has demonstrated that individuals charged to serve in “leadership roles” (regardless of title or definition) while agreeing with the general principles may inherently struggle with the implementation of social justice and feminist principles into the day-to-day operation of the organization. How can individuals integrate the concepts and philosophies of feminist and social justice into the heart of their leadership style? In attempting to understand how these principles might be utilized in a leadership context, we are often stuck in a patriarchal leadership paradigm characterized by competition, hierarchy, heroic leadership, individualism, power, command-control styles.
This leads us to the question, how can we infuse knowledge about social justice and feminist leadership into our leadership styles? What are the unique perspectives of feminist leaders that apply to the universal concepts of leadership? Leadership focused on relationships becomes expressions of essential femaleness and thus devalued (confirming prevalent stereotypes of women). Barton (2006) sates that “Feminist leaders are conscious of both individual issues and concerns (micro-level) and societal issues and concerns (macro-level) and try to do a delicate balancing act as they participate in feminist activism on both levels. At a college or university, this means that a feminist leader is concerned for individual students, faculty and staff, whole academic communities, and also how to best serve the community or town in which the institution is located.” With this in mind, this lecture will address about how one can integrate his/her own feminist and social justice frameworks into a leadership style.
Heather Shea Gasser is the Director of the University of Idaho Women’s Center and has served in this role since February of 2008. Heather is a higher education administrator with a passion for social justice and feminist activism. Her career in student affairs spans 14 years and four different campuses. Currently the director of the Women's Center at the University of Idaho, Heather is able to live her passion for feminism and social justice while also serving as an LGBT ally on a daily basis. She also has affiliate faculty status in Sociology and teaches a leadership class for participants in the Women's Mentoring Program as well as classes for students pursuing the Academic Certificate in Diversity & Stratification. Committed to professional development, social justice and assessment, on campus at the University of Idaho Heather co-leads the President's Leadership Academy, the President's Diversity Council Campus Climate Subcommittee, and the Student Affairs Assessment Team.
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