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January 8, 2009 

The Future
of Leadership

The Inauguration isn't the only thing happening this month! Make sure you look into the Information Session January 27 on GWU's Master's Degree in Organizational Sciences. Please see ad to right!


It wasn't long ago when women at the helm of companies were as rare as women at the helm of nations. The times they are a-changin'. What would our great-grandmothers think if they knew there are now entire institutes at major universities devoted to studying how women lead? They'd probably say, "It's about time!" Elizabeth Davis, Associate Professor and Program Director of Organizational Sciences at GW and Director of the GW Women's Leadership Institute (WLI), is making sure that the way women lead, and the impact they have on our global society, does not go unnoticed.


Beginning her career as a researcher at Duke University Medical School and working as Managing Director of the National Disease Research Interchange in Philadelphia, Davis came to GW in 2000 to help develop the organizational sciences program (then known as administrative sciences). With a PhD in strategy, she helped turn a program of 25 students into one of 200 in just three years. "We focus on how to create effective organizations in a global environment," says Davis of the interdisciplinary department. "Our program is at the forefront of how to face leadership problems such as climate transformation and its potential impact on business, social responsibility, and inter-organizational problems across the globe. We're on the edge of trying to develop new theory and practice in organizations from the public and private sectors."


Globalization and the rapidly changing economy call for different styles of leadership, and one of those being examined is the way women lead. "In 2004 I went on sabbatical and the issue that kept coming up was women's leadership," explains Davis. Pulling together a dozen other faculty members from different GW departments, Davis and her colleagues formed an interdisciplinary institute to explore the issue. "Our focus is on interdisciplinary research, women in social systems, and looking at human differences. This is all done through innovative programming such as our women's leadership summer institute." The Institute is in the process of creating a leadership award for a woman in the field and researching the global leadership mindset of female leaders. During the next two years, they will concentrate on developing their research capacity at GW, as well as collaborative research beyond their walls.


"We have achieved some critical changes in women's leadership," says Davis of the changing roles women play in management. "We are inching toward comparable worth, but the sense of our group is that there's still a lot of territory to cover." Davis and her colleagues are sure about the importance of emerging female leaders having mentors to help develop solid networks. Strong leaders produce strong leaders, and with luck more of those at the helm of global companies will soon be women.



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