Redefining leadership from a feminist viewpoint

April 8, 2014 2:30 PM

Hannah Dean

In her lecture “What’s Feminism Got to Do With It?” at Tulane University, author and professor Mary Trigg of Rutgers University provided a multifaceted viewpoint through which to examine women’s roles in leadership.

Lecturer Mary Trigg

During her Tulane visit, author and professor Mary Trigg of Rutgers University meets with a first-year class of Newcomb Scholars. (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

Throughout her talk on Monday (April 7) for the 2014 Adele Ramos Salzer Lecture, Trigg focused on several factors that affect society’s understanding of leadership and its relationship with gender parity and social change. 

She discussed the stereotypes that people generally associate with leaders —male, older, authoritarian, loud, forthright, etc. — that contribute to the lack of women in positions of leadership across the U.S. Trigg called upon the audience to combat the prevalence of these stereotypes by “expanding the notion of what we consider leadership to be.”

“We need women leaders,” she said, “because their leadership can be a source for change in a world that desperately needs it.”

She added that regardless of their field of work, women often bring a more collaborative approach to leadership that incorporates everyone’s skill sets and interests.

Other important aspects of leadership development, according to Trigg, are “seeking out and working with individuals who inspire us” and creating connections with those mentors, as well as institution-building, as she demonstrated with her role in the founding of the Leadership Scholars Certificate Program at Rutgers.

Trigg, an associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers, cited first-hand accounts of modern feminism from her book Leading the Way: Young Women’s Activism for Social Change, in which she interviewed 21 of her female students to cultivate a greater understanding of feminist leadership.

Her students noted that leadership is about taking an active role in a variety of situations; that it requires taking risks without necessarily “getting it right;” and that it means understanding the value of humility.

The lecture series is sponsored by the Newcomb College Institute.

Hannah Dean is a first-year Newcomb-Tulane College student.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000