Leadership and gender : exploring female students’ lived experiences of leadership in Ugandan public University Councils.
Mayanja, Christopher Samuel.
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Female student representatives on public university councils in Uganda are elected student leaders who are part of the highest supreme organ in the University. The study aimed at exploring female students’ lived experiences of leadership in Uganda’s public universities. The study specifically attempted to answer four research questions: who the female student leaders participating in public university councils in Uganda were; how they experienced relating with other council members; the challenges they experienced; and the lessons that could be drawn about gender and leadership from the experiences of female student leaders participating in public university councils in Uganda. The study deployed an interpretive research paradigm with a qualitative approach. A phenomenological research design, using a narrative inquiry research methodology was also used. The study targeted five public universities where study participants were drawn using a purposive sampling technique. It also deployed three data generation methods; unstructured interview, transect walk and letter writing. Field texts were transcribed verbatim and the study deployed a two-level analysis – narrative analysis and analysis of narratives. The study found out that female student representatives on public university councils had varying identities which influenced their behaviour as they executed their leadership mandate. It was also found out that the female student leaders faced constraints which derailed effective pursuance of their leadership mandate. These constraints included insufficient leadership capacity of female students to participate in leadership unlike their male student counterparts. Constraints also included roles assigned to female students and female student leaders as ascribed by society, including motherhood, home chores and unpaid care work, which made them vulnerable unlike the male student counterparts. The study drew four conclusions; firstly that identities of female student representatives on public university councils in one way or the other influence their behaviour while pursuing their leadership mandate. Secondly, that the effective participation of female students in leadership of higher educational institutions may not only depend on their identities, but also support of other players. Thirdly, female student leaders still face vulnerability as opposed to their male student counterparts due to the more gender roles they ought to play which may make them overburdened to effectively pursue their leadership mandate. Fourthly, female students in higher educational institutions face a major constraint of insufficient leadership capacity to effectively participate in respective higher educational institution leadership and governance. The study recommended undertaking research on other key factors that may influence leadership styles in higher educational institutions; female student leaders should ride on the support of the key stakeholders and ignore the stereotyping that leadership in higher educational institutions is a reserve of their male counterparts; and that the education and sports sector prioritises leadership capacity building for female students so that they may be encouraged to participate more effectively in higher educational institutions leadership and governance.