President's Column

This issue of the Monitor focuses on a very important topic: the relationship between being female and being a leader as perceived by female psychologists who themselves are leaders. My column opens the door to these extremely interesting interviews, which I hope will help all of us to think more clearly about gender barriers and to act more effectively to remove them.

APA's women leaders

I'll start with a little APA history. G. Stanley Hall, APA's first president, held office in 1892. The first woman president, Mary Whiton Calkins, served in 1905. During this period, Harvard had quite a run in APA. Of the four presidents who preceded Calkins, three of them-William James, Josiah Royce and Edmund Clark Sanford-had been her teachers at Harvard. Sixteen years passed before another woman, Margaret Floyd Washburn, was elected as APA president. Then, it wasn't until 51 years later that Anne Anastasi served as the 1972 president. And, for the first (and so far, only, time), there were two female presidents in a row when Leona Tyler was president in 1973.

Comparatively, the 1980s were a banner decade, with three female presidents being elected: Florence Denmark, Janet Spence and Bonnie Strickland. But the trend didn't continue: Dorothy W. Cantor was the only female president elected in the 1990s. As for this decade, the pace is definitely picking up, with three females elected since 2000: Norine Johnson, Diane Halpern, and myself. Thus, from 1892 through 1971, a span of 80 years, only two women were elected to the APA presidency (2.5 percent), while over the last 36 years, nine women have been elected (25 percent). In APA, women are definitely making progress! A similar trend has occurred in American higher education. For example, four of the eight Ivy League universities have women presidents, as do four of the Big 10 universities. There is, however, still considerable variation. Among the 10 campuses of the University of California, there is currently only one female president.

But what about other benchmarks, in the United States and around the world? How many women hold the top government role in their country? How many women head large companies? How many women have received the Nobel Prize? Not many-in any of these categories. In numerous countries, however, women's opportunities have greatly expanded over the last generation and we can expect a dramatic increase in women's participation in high-profile, high- prestige, leadership positions.

Looking ahead

Given this inevitability, how can both women and men prepare both women and men for a more egalitarian future? Here are few suggested interventions:

  • Resist gender stereotyping. Remember that in most cases, individual variation outweighs gender differences, so it's usually more accurate to attribute behaviors to the individual and not to his or her gender.

  • Cultivate both same-sex and different-sex friendships.

  • Encourage women to take more math courses and men to take more psychology courses.

The women leaders who were interviewed for this issue of the Monitor have already made significant contributions to creating a more egalitarian future. Their experiences, insights, and beliefs provide a basic text that will be useful for both male and female leaders. As psychologists, their commentary on leadership is particularly valuable since their knowledge provides an exceedingly useful framework for being a leaderand understanding leadership.

Moreover, I view APA itself as a leadership incubator that comes in many models. You can have the full-fledged legislative experience in APA's Council of Representatives as you try to convince 165 other people of what you believe. Alternatively, you can join small study groups and task forces that focus on specific substantive or policy issues. In between, there are large groups, such as the major directorate boards, that address the numerous interests of particular association sectors. And, of course, members of the Board of Directors have a clear opportunity to contribute to the effectiveness and well-being of the association itself.

Whether you are male or female, I hope that this issue of the Monitor will inspire you to contribute your interests, knowledge, and talent in whatever leadership role would be most fulfilling to you and to those you care about. Though it's not listed this way in the dictionary, it seems to me that the best definition of leadership is spelled s-e-r-v-i-c-e.