Case Studies of Self-Silencing in Women Leaders of Baccalaureate Nursing Programs

Wednesday, 14 July 2010: 8:50 AM

Nina M. Kaktins, MS, RN
Department of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to distinguish between self-silencing characteristics and leadership characteristics.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to determine the potential effects of self-silencing in women nurse education leaders on the advocacy role.

Purpose: The purpose of this research was to explore the existence of self-silencing in women leaders in baccalaureate nursing programs, specifically chairpersons. Women’s self-silencing behaviors include avoiding advocacy roles when these may lead to confrontation, consistently putting the needs of others before one’s own needs, and presenting an outward display of quiescence while anger builds inside. The potential for these characteristics in women chairpersons is disquieting, particularly considering the need for strong leaders in nursing education with the ability to communicate effectively, and pursue advocacy roles.

Methods: This exploratory multiple-case study incorporates replication logic, and mixed-method design, using a sample of three women chairpersons of baccalaureate nursing programs in Pennsylvania. The concept of self-silencing and the leadership theory of frame analysis were used to guide the study design. Flexible, in-depth interview narratives were corroborated with a quantitative measurement of self-silencing, namely the Silencing the Self Scale-Work (STSS-W) as well as curriculum vitas, faculty meeting minutes and newsletters.

Results: The cross-case analysis of interviews with three women chairpersons of baccalaureate nursing programs reveal three major themes, namely Relational Communication Skills, Conflict Resolution, and Participatory Leadership Versus Power. All of the women chairpersons completed the STSS-W with the low average scores of two of the women indicating little to no self-silencing, while the score of one of the women indicates she may self-silence.

Conclusion: The narratives of these three women chairpersons suggests they do not exhibit self-silencing in the workplace. With the possible exception of one of the chairpersons, the average scores on the STSS-W support the women’s narratives; other documentation reviewed supported the narratives of all three women. While the results of this study imply that women nursing chairpersons do exhibit effective leadership qualities, more research is needed to validate these results.