rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 1: p. 78
Sources: Gender and Women’s Leadership: A Reference Handbook
Melia Erin Fritch

Melia Erin Fritch, Multicultural Literacy Librarian, Kansas State University Libraries, Manhattan, Kansas

Although one of the newest interdisciplinary fields in academia in the past 20 years, Leadership Studies has already established a solid foothold on many university campuses across North America. Students up to this point could use a handful of reference materials for a broad overview of the prominent people, theories, organizations, etc. within the new field, such as James Burns’s four-volume Encyclopedia of Leadership (Sage, 2004). However, there has not yet been any reference material to focus on gender and women within leadership studies as an in-depth review.

Gender and Women’s Leadership, a 2-volume reference handbook, is part of a larger reference leadership series covering topics ranging from environmental leadership to political and civic leadership. The dedication of a handbook to gender and women’s leadership speaks both to the importance of women within leadership and to the lack of their inclusion in past leadership reference material.

The handbook is a strong reference tool not only for students beginning their endeavor into leadership studies, but also for the students learning about the great role that women have and continued to play locally, nationally and globally. The over 100 entries offer topics ranging from foundational history of feminist theory to analysis of women’s leadership around the world within governments, family, history, literature, health, religion, and social movements. The chapters contain ample explanatory information written in a style that students will find both accessible and engaging—almost to the point that they could use the handbook itself as a supplemental course textbook.

Contributors to the handbook, primarily women leaders themselves, include oppositional views within their chapters, a summary, references and notes to give the reader a more complete picture of each topic. The topics serve multiculturalism well and the contributors succeed in communicating a view of the intersectionality that many women in the world experience life through every day. In a chapter about intersectionalities within women’s leadership, the author explains, “viewing the world from the intersections of various social identities—including race, gender, class, ability, nationality, sexuality, among other locations—has given way to a paradigm shift in terms of how we understand women’s leadership” (31). This theme of the importance of intersectionality is carried through both volumes and the authors and editor are not shy about acknowledging the long road ahead before we see equality for women.

Additional details about the handbook that add to its stand-alone quality include “Spotlight” sections covering specific events or discussions, diagrams, charts, data analysis, references and notes for each chapter, and an index that spans over 60 pages and lists both individual entries and mentions while also including the main topics in bold. The twelve sections of the handbook, and each section’s overview and chapter entries, are listed in the table of contents and with the contributing author. Overall, the handbook is easy to use and organized clearly.

In her “Introduction” the editor makes the bold claim that the “depth of work in this handbook proves that complaints that “‘there is no literature on,’ or no reason to examine, women’s leadership can no longer be sustained” and after reviewing the handbook, I can state that her claim is completely accurate and supported (xiii). An academic library, even one at a university with no leadership studies program, would find this handbook to be a necessary addition to their collection.

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