At 4 feet 10 inches tall, Jean Lau Chin, EdD, doesn't let her height get in the way of taking charge. In fact, at times it's made her stronger, she says, such as when she treated a group of adolescent boys in the 1980s, when she was co-director of a child guidance clinic. The shortest member of the group stood nearly a foot taller than Chin, yet she gained their respect, and with that, confidence in her role.
Now a dean at Adelphi University in New York, Chin can not only hold her own, she's also recently written the book on how women do it. In "Women and Leadership: Transforming Visions and Diverse Voices" (Blackwell Publishers, 2007), co-edited with Bernice Lott, PhD, Joy K. Rice, PhD, and Janis Sanchez-Hucles, PhD, the authors identify challenges faced by women in positions of leadership. The book also examines how feminist principles-collaboration, inclusion, empowerment and diversity-contribute to leadership. As she and other women leaders have learned, women are less likely to label themselves as leaders even as they take charge in organizations and contribute to social change, Chin says.
"I'm more willing now to say, 'Yeah, I'm a woman leader,'" says Chin, who's also president of CEO Services, providing clinical, educational and organizational consulting services, with a focus on cultural competence.
It's hard to find a time when Chin has not been leading. Before her dean appointment at Adelphi in 2006, Chin, who holds a doctorate in psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University, held executive positions at a child guidance clinic, a community health clinic and a managed-care company. Most recently, she served as dean of the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. She's a past-president of Div. 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women), and serves on APA's Council of Representatives and the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest. Today, at Adelphi, she heads the nation's first university-based professional school of psychology. Throughout her various leadership positions, Chin has supervised staffs ranging from 40 to 200, and managed budgets from $3 million to $30 million.
But it took time for Chin to be taken seriously as a leader, she recalls. "Many did not expect a petite, Asian woman to be their boss," she says. Rather than giving in to stereotypes, she demonstrated her effectiveness through her management and leadership style. What's more, she prepared more than 200 presentations and publications and wrote nine books in areas of cultural competence, psychotherapy, health and Asian-American issues.
Changing misperceptions is a tall order for anyone, no matter their height, but Chin built her reputation on teamwork and fairness, says Bravada Garrett-Akinsanya, PhD, president and founder of Brakins Consulting and Psychological Services in Minneapolis. For example, within her first nine months at Adelphi's Derner Institute, Chin collaboratively engaged her faculty, alumni and students in revisiting the mission, vision and values, and is helping the institute integrate its psychodynamic foundation with multiculturalism, in order to be relevant and effective in an increasingly diverse and global society.
"Dr. Chin is a visionary feminist leader who demonstrates the power of collaboration, consensus-building and inclusion," says Garrett-Akinsanya, who met Chin when they served on the executive committee for Div. 35 together.
Chin's involvement on federal, state and local boards for policy development, advocacy and evaluation have made inroads on issues including cultural competence, community-based service delivery systems, mental health andsubstance abuse, particularly for ethnic minorities and Asian Americans. In addition, Chin's confidence in her ability and pride in her ethnic heritage helped Garrett-Akinsanya pursue her own path as an African-American woman leader, she says.
With Chin as her inspiration, she certainly has some big shoes to fill-at least metaphorically.