The feminization of Catholic higher education in historically male institutions

Lois D'Amore, Fordham University


Today, lay women are playing more of a part in Catholic parishes and communities, and with the declining number of those entering religious orders, more women can be found in administrative positions in Catholic higher education. This qualitative study explores the roles of women administrators in Catholic institutions and how their culture, gender, and leadership styles may benefit all students, but especially female students. Specific issues focus on the function of women deans, including associate and assistant deans, in guiding all students toward academic excellence and leadership. Nine women deans from six historically male Catholic colleges and universities in metropolitan New York were interviewed for this study. The setting was at the institutions where these women work as administrators. The heritage of the religious orders, which founded these institutions, as well as the paradigm shift by these orders to allow women into their institutions, was also considered. Triangulation, interviews, observations, and artifacts were evaluated to learn what mattered most to the participants. One of the significant findings is that care of the students was indeed a powerful motivator for these women working in Catholic higher education. Each participant believed in helping students grow in mind, body, and spirit. Many wanted to see students enter the working world doing more for others, having a sense of social justice, and caring for the poor. The participants in this study are part of their communities and of Catholic higher education. They reported that they continued to work in their current positions because of their belief in the core values of their institutions, in their faith, and in the Charisms of their institutions. The study concludes with recommendations that additional research using this method of study be done. Other types of administrators could be involved, such as department chairpersons, student affairs personnel, and academic advisors. It is also recommended that administrators have an understanding of the Catholic identity and mission of their institutions, as set forth in Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

Subject Area

Womens studies|School administration|Religious education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

D'Amore, Lois, "The feminization of Catholic higher education in historically male institutions" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3373824.