World-Class Universities and Female Leadership in the Academic Profession: Case Studies of East Asian Higher Education

  • Hei-hang Hayes TangEmail author
Part of the International and Development Education book series (INTDE)


This chapter examines women’s representation in the leadership positions at key world-class research universities in the Asia Pacific region. It engages with documentary research into the case studies of various Asian flagship universities, namely National Taiwan University, Peking University, Seoul National University, the University of Hong Kong, and the University of Tokyo. The documentary research is based on an in-depth review of the academic literature comprising empirical studies which investigate and explain the representation of women academics and their involvement in intellectual leadership at Asia Pacific higher education institutions. Special attention is paid to the significant factors that structure female engagement in leadership roles. The determinants that either facilitate or impede the women’s representation in academe and senior managerial positions are reviewed to make sense of the empirical findings of this study. The findings indicate that the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has the highest representation of women leaders (28.9%) who are mainly from non-STEM backgrounds and are also most prevalent at the departmental level. HKU has also, among the five case-study universities, higher representation of female institutional leaders (14.3%). Another East Asian world-class university which has made better progress in gender equality and university management is National Taiwan University (24.6%). For working toward inclusivity of intellectual leadership in the East Asian academic profession, there needs to be more culturally sensitive and gender-appropriate policies and practices in the human resource management in universities, which are sensitive to the personal and professional lives, including marriage and family obligations (Tang 2017). The inclusion of more women professors in leadership positions can serve as much-needed role models for mentoring young female academics. Through better gender-informed and humanistic implementation of human resources management, women’s credentials and their various capabilities and caliber can be capitalized upon with a view to enabling more inclusive and robust future transformations of East Asian world-class universities and the academic profession.



The author would like to thank Mr. Chi-fung Wilton Chau for his valuable research for this chapter.


  1. Aiston, S.J. 2011. “Equality, Justice and Gender: Barriers to the Ethical University for Women.” Ethics and education 6 (3): 279–291.Google Scholar
  2. Aiston, S.J. 2014. “Leading the Academy or Being Led? Hong Kong Women Academics.” Higher Education Research & Development 33 (1): 59–72.Google Scholar
  3. Aiston, S.J., and J. Jung. 2015. “Women Academics and Research Productivity: An International Comparison.” Gender and Education 27 (3): 205–220.Google Scholar
  4. Bain, O., and W. Cummings. 2000. “Academe’s Glass Ceiling: Societal, Professional‐Organizational, and Institutional Barriers to the Career Advancement of Academic Women.” Comparative Education Review 44 (4): 493–514.Google Scholar
  5. Bradley, K. 2000. “The Incorporation of Women into Higher Education: Paradoxical Outcomes?” Sociology of Education 73 (1): 1–18.Google Scholar
  6. Chen, D.I.R. 2008. “Managerialism and Its Impact on Female Academics in Taiwan.” Journal of Asian Public Policy 1 (3): 328–345.Google Scholar
  7. Chen, A.Y.H. 2011. “Women University President Work-Family Adaptation Life Journey.” Thesis (in Chinese). Available from Airiti Library: U0021-1610201315262795.Google Scholar
  8. Cheong, H.E. 1982. “A Study on the Professional Women’s Role at Home: With Emphasis on the Women Professor in Seoul.” Master’s thesis, Hanyang University, Seoul.Google Scholar
  9. Cubillo, L., and M. Brown. 2003. “Women into Educational Leadership and Management: International Differences?” Journal of Educational Administration 41 (3): 278–291.Google Scholar
  10. Eagly, A.H., and L. Carli. 2007. “Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership.” Harvard Business Review, 85 (9): 62–71.Google Scholar
  11. Eliou, M. 1991. “Women in the Academic Profession: Evolution or Stagnation?” In Women’s Higher Education in Comparative Perspective, 145–164. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  12. Fu, K. 2015. “Women Academics and Higher Education Leadership in Hong Kong: A Case Study of the Faculty of Education and Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine in the University of Hong Kong.” Master of Education thesis, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  13. Heilman, M.E. 2001. “Description and Prescription: How Gender Stereotypes Prevent Women’s Ascent up the Organizational Ladder.” Journal of Social Issues 57 (4): 657–674.Google Scholar
  14. Homma, M.K., R. Motohashi, and H. Ohtsubo. 2013. “Maximizing the Potential of Scientists in Japan: Promoting Equal Participation for Women Scientists Through Leadership Development.” Genes to Cells 18 (7): 529–532.Google Scholar
  15. Johnsrud, L.K. 1995. “Korean Academic Women: Multiple Roles, Multiple Challenges.” Higher Education 30 (1): 17–35.Google Scholar
  16. Kim, N., H.J. Yoon, and G.N. McLean. 2010. “Policy Efforts to Increase Women Faculty in Korea: Reactions and Changes at Universities.” Asia Pacific Education Review 11 (3): 285–299.Google Scholar
  17. Kloot, L. 2004. “Women and Leadership in Universities: A Case Study of Women Academic Managers.” International Journal of Public Sector Management 17 (6): 470–485.Google Scholar
  18. Kjeldal, S.E., J. Rindfleish, and A. Sheridan. 2005. “Deal‐Making and Rule‐Breaking: Behind the Façade of Equity in Academia.” Gender and Education 17 (4): 431–447.Google Scholar
  19. Lam, M.P.H. 2006. “Senior Women Academics in Hong Kong: A Life History Approach.” Dissertation, University of Leicester, Education Department.Google Scholar
  20. Lee, Y.J., and D. Won. 2014. “Trailblazing Women in Academia: Representation of Women in Senior Faculty and the Gender Gap in Junior Faculty’s Salaries in Higher Educational Institutions.” The Social Science Journal 51 (3): 331–340.Google Scholar
  21. Luke, C. 1998. “‘I Got to Where I Am by My Own Strength’: Women in Hong Kong Higher Education Management.” Education Journal 26 (1): 31–58.Google Scholar
  22. Mackie, V. 2002. “Embodiment, Citizenship, and Social Policy in Contemporary Japan.” In Family and Social Policy in Japan: Anthropological Approaches, 200–229. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  23. Min, M.S., and H.R. Huh. 1998. Faculty Gender Imbalance in Korean University: Present Status and Future Needs (In Korean). Seoul: Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI).Google Scholar
  24. Morley, L. 2013. “The Rules of the Game: Women and the Leaderist Turn in Higher Education.” Gender and Education 25 (1): 116–131.Google Scholar
  25. Nguyen, T.L.H. 2013. “Barriers to and Facilitators of Female Deans’ Career Advancement in Higher Education: An Exploratory Study in Vietnam.” Higher Education 66 (1): 123–138.Google Scholar
  26. Pang, J.M.S. 1993. “Job Satisfaction of Women Faculty at Universities in Seoul, Republic of Korea.” Dissertation, University of North Texas.Google Scholar
  27. Riger, S., J. Stokes, S. Raja, and M. Sullivan. 1997. “Measuring Perceptions of the Work Environment for Female Faculty.” The Review of Higher Education 21 (1): 63–78.Google Scholar
  28. Rhoads, R.A., and D.Y. Gu. 2012. “A Gendered Point of View on the Challenges of Women Academics in the People’s Republic of China.” Higher Education 63 (6): 733–750.Google Scholar
  29. Shin, E.S. 1981. “A Study on the Role of Conflict of Women Professors in Korea.” Master’s thesis, Ewha Womans University, Seoul.Google Scholar
  30. Siann, G., and M. Callaghan. 2001. “Choices and Barriers: Factors Influencing Women’s Choice of Higher Education in Science, Engineering, and Technology.” Journal of Further and Higher Education 25 (1): 85–95.Google Scholar
  31. Tang, H.H.H. 2017. “Women and Intellectual Leadership in East Asia’s Academic Professions: A Review of the Literature.” In Inclusive Leadership in Higher Education: International Perspectives and Approaches, edited by L. Stefani and P. Blessinger, 29–45. London; New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. UNESCO. 1993. Women in Higher Education Management. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  33. Usui, C., S. Rose, and R. Kageyama. 2003. “Women, Institutions, and Leadership in Japan.” Asian Perspective 27 (3): 85–123.Google Scholar
  34. Yu-Tull, D. 1983. “An Investigation of Attitudes and Perceptions of Educators in Korean Higher Education Toward Job Performance Ability of Women in Korean Higher Education.” PhD dissertation, George Washington University, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  35. Zhang, J. 2000. “Study of the Status of Women Teachers in China’s Higher Education.” Chinese Education & Society 33 (4): 16–29.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Education University of Hong KongTai PoHong Kong

Personalised recommendations