Making the case for the study of young women's leadership in civil society organisations

Erica Lewis

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Within the field of leadership studies, the implicit assumption is that our leaders are old, or at least older people. Carole A. MacNeil drew attention to this gap within leadership studies through her analysis of Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership noting that although the book reviews “five thousand leadership studies, there is nothing about youth as leaders or about leadership development for youth” (2006, citing Bass 1981). MacNeil’s reference to Stogdill’s handbook dates back to the original publication, however, a brief review of the 4th edition suggests little has changed, while there was one brief and positive mention of old/er leaders within the discussions of minority leaders, no discussion of young/er leaders was readily identifiable (Bass, 2008). But the idea that the under-representation of young people in leadership roles in organisations and civil society is a problem is one that is starting to gain momentum (Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2014, United Nations Development Programme, 2013). The arguments as to why it is important that women’s voices are heard in civil society are well rehearsed (Childs and Lovenduski, 2013), and similar arguments could be made for young women, but rarely have been. In this paper I want to highlight why in order to strengthen campaigns such as girls education and child marriage we need to ensure that not only the voices of young women and girls are heard, but that their leadership within our movements and movement organisations is recognised and respected. References BASS, B. M. 2008. Handbook of leadership: theory, research, and application, New York, Free Press. CHILDS, S. & LOVENDUSKI, J. 2013. Political Representation. In: WAYLEN, G., CELIS, K., KANTOLA, J. & WELDON, L. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION 2014. Youth Participation in National Parliaments. MACNEIL, C. A. 2006. Bridging generations: Applying "adult" leadership theories to youth leadership development. New Directions for Youth Development, Spring, pp27-43. UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME 2013. Enhancing Youth Political Participation throughout the Electoral Cycle. New York: United Nations Development Programme.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Mar 2018
EventYouth Action, Activism and Education - Continuities, Changes and Possibilities - Canterbury, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Mar 2018 → …


ConferenceYouth Action, Activism and Education - Continuities, Changes and Possibilities
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period15/03/18 → …


  • young women
  • leadership


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