Men vs. Women in International Education Leadership, Part II

Men vs. Women in International Education Leadership
Men vs. Women in International Education Leadership

<<<Go to Part I of International Education Men vs. Women

This is Part II of the article and survey results on perceived effectiveness, strengths, and transformational leadership differences between men and women in senior international officer (SIO) or equivalent international education positions.

SIO Representation

Half of the SIO Men represented by the survey were from doctoral universities, while the majority of SIO Women were from both doctoral universities (37.4%) and liberal arts colleges (23.2%) combined. More details are included in the chart below.

Men Women
International Education Organization 11.8% 7.1%
Agricultural, Technical, or Specialized College 0.8%
Community or Junior College 0.8% 4%
Liberal Arts College 9.4% 23.2%
Third-Party Provider 6.3% 8.1%
University – Bachelor’s level 6.3% 6.1%
University – Master’s level 14.2% 14.1%
University – Doctoral level 50.4% 37.4%

Final Question (optional): How has this leader made a difference at your company or institution?

There were 46 responses for SIO Men and 42 responses for SIO Women. For the purposes of this article, I grouped them by perceived effectiveness and drew out comments and descriptors. Now, let’s take a look, starting from the bottom and working up.

Not Effective at all

No SIO women were labeled as not being effective, and there were only two comments about the nine SIO men that fell into this category.

“Brought a budget consciousness that hadn’t been in place before, which senior staff (the majority of whom are male) appreciate at this time. However, he does not have a study abroad background of the caliber that our institution needed.”

“If anything he has had a negative impact due to his inability to manage people, money or himself.”

Somewhat Effective

Men Women

Builds Reputation


Creates a good image

Decisions all made by him


Consolidated (two offices under one roof)

Developed (programming)


Focuses Up, too much

Forward thinking

Hinders us & Plays favorites

Improved (the program)


Political (seeks the upper echelons of business and government, rewards mediocrity, stifles creativity and motivation)


Decisions made w/o consultation

Disregard for IE as a field, since her field is different (tenured faculty appointment)

Gained respect and trust

Lack of Experience in IE

Lack of Understanding of IE

Less than desired commitment to field of IE & to students (tenured, appointed faculty)

No background in IE (appointed faculty)

Raised profile of IE

Rapid Expansion

Selfish (this person’s professional development and opportunities take priority)


Solid Management Skills


Too early to tell


Men Women
Brings the needs of the office to the attention of higher administration

Brought media attention/publicity to the university and department

Created a centralized office

Created an office where there was none.

Created programs that would otherwise not exist on campus

Developed and maintained several overseas partnerships

Developing new programs for internationalizing across our campuses

Encouraging to those of us who are here wanting to make a difference

Formed a great team of people around himself

Offers the “backbone” to any of our decisions

Shared a vision for international education

Single-handedly grown the IE efforts

Started the Centers

Supports and enables the international agenda of the president

Tries hard to keep the international agenda out there

Worked with other university areas to develop policy

Brave enough to deal with difficult personalities

Brings in her positive personality

Brought in grant funding to support international initiatives

Brought international issues to the forefront of the university’s agenda, with support from senior administration

Brought together units that never communicated

Created a strategic plan and encouraged others to do the same

Created various ways for the entire academic community to become involved

Demanded that the university ask deeper questions

Embraces understanding of international education as encompassing full array of teaching, research and outreach functions

Enhanced international opportunities

Expanded the IE Program in a slow motion

Fosters connections across international education subfields

Increased awareness of off-campus study options

Increased our international connections

Increased institution’s international profile

Fosters the team approach among the staff

Garners greater support for the office among the faculty

Implemented measures to significantly increase off-campus enrollments

Make us a strong resource on campus

Led the campus in developing a clear, forward-looking philosophy

Led reorganization of international offices into a single center

Organized and shaped the office of international programs

Organized the intensive English program

Outreach with public schools

Persistence, networking and creativity pays off

Provided extended services

Provides the vision, the new ideas

Stresses every day that “OUR” students are indeed BOTH domestic and international

Supported faculty and students in studying and teaching abroad

Swimming upstream as there is little institutional support

Worked to carry out directives issued from a changing leadership

Working with colleges and departments on internationalizing the campus

Very Effective

Men Women
All the right pieces—worked abroad extensively and foreign language

Broad and deep knowledge

Brought a new dimension of strategic thinking and global commitment

Consistent and imaginative leadership

Constantly proposing new ideas and approaches

Created an extremely positive work environment (non-competitive, empathetic, and forward-looking)

Created an effective, financially solvent, better focused entity

Creative and forward-thinking

Demands high quality academics

Focused and keeps the focus on quality

Full of useful ideas

Hands off management style



Internationalizes the campus

Positive Leadership

Re-energized our international programs initiative from the ground up

Role Model

Shapes the culture of the organization

Significantly transformed the landscape for international education

Single-handedly (created study abroad program)


Strives to diversify programs and funding sources

Strong Vision & Leadership

Supportive (verbally and financially)

Team Concept

Voice for comprehensive internationalization

Brought about major changes that greatly increased the overall quality of the program

Champion for professional development of staff

Contributes to the field

Created faculty consulting committees


Creates Community

Developed a comprehensive, centralized international center

Encourages others to seek professional development

Elevated the profile of international education


Engaged leaders

Integrated study abroad with curriculum and teaching

Fostered a global environment of caring


Keeps it growing

Grew the program

Open to Feedback

Provided emergency management guidance as well as policies and practices to create and improve our programs

Makes the company successful

Mentored many staff and students

Moved forward the institution’s agenda

Positioned IE as being on the front lines of innovation, excellence, and offering many best practices to others to model

Provides Vision

Raised Visibility

Seeks Input

Significantly improved organization

Supports her staff

Supports and communicates the college mission and needs of senior management

Supports faculty

Thoroughly organized a very disorganized office and program

Took a bright idea from the minds of the founders and developed it into reality

Transformed a small international programs office into a professional, full-functioning part of a campus-wide initiative that prepares students (and faculty) for global citizenship



Obviously, both men and women can embody all of the qualities above, regardless of their sex, and so it’s difficult to identify patterns. What I found interesting are the different perceptions of effectiveness, as they relate to descriptors, and the choice of words for the different sexes. For example, “decisions are made by him” (for a man) vs. “decisions made w/o consultation” (for a woman). It’s acceptable for a male to be described as someone who “demands high quality academics” and for a female as having “integrated study abroad with curriculum and teaching.”

More than anything, this data makes me wonder how powerful gender really is in defining people’s expectations and perceptions? One very effective man “brought a new dimension of strategic thinking and global commitment” while a woman “brought about major changes that greatly increased the overall quality of the program.” A very effective man showed “positive leadership” while an equally effective woman “engaged leaders.” Words like grow, foster, encourage, and support were used more often to describe women. One very effective male SIO was described as a “role model” while an equally effective female SIO was a described as a “mentor” (different connotation).

These results do not suggest that one sex is better than the other, as we all know there are good leaders and bad leaders among both. What they do tell us is both men and women are necessary and valuable to leadership, especially in higher education. Perhaps the SIO women in this survey have higher effectiveness ratings and more descriptors because the road to their position was narrower and longer than it was for the SIO men. Perhaps more research should be conducted to determine why women are overrepresented within certain International Education institutional categories but underrepresented in others.

Last week, I forgot to mention the 30% Solution, a brilliant strategy which gained traction at the UN
Conference in 1995. The
30% Solution is the critical
where enough
power tables
heard and
positively affecting
goals. According to Linda Tarr-Whelan, business and government does better when there is thirty percent women in leadership, and she has plenty of examples to back this up. I’m a believer…are you?

Submitted by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University

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2 thoughts on “Men vs. Women in International Education Leadership, Part II

  1. I have greatly enjoyed your survey findings, thank you for undertaking this project and sharing the results.

  2. I think leadership is fundamentally teaching. A leader must communicate information and enthusiasm. A leader is more effective when can demonstrate experience and share the fruits of that experience by sharing wisdom.

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