Virtual Leadership Support Mechanisms Beyond the Academy of the Arts

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session Leadership Equity and Inclusion

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This leadership workshop is for arts professionals, researchers, and students interested in brainstorming strategies for self-efficacy in artistic leadership, and in so doing add their viewpoints, inform the research, and contribute to the body of knowledge on women, and African American women in particular, in cinematic leadership.


Tracy L.F. Worley, DM, PMP, is a scholar and educator, writer, researcher, project manager, and independent motion picture producer. Her grounded theory research ( into African American female leadership in major motion pictures reveals the importance of self-determination and access, and it is timely considering the current discourse on issues of equity for women. She is s peer reviewer for Feminist Media Studies and her participation in the media and performing arts gives foundational significance to her research. Dr. Worley is a qualitative researcher who has conducted studies on women in the arts, leadership ethics, intracultural communication and education, and her current research interest is an examination of the comic image in the pantheon of Black popular culture. She is a qualitative methodologist and instructional designer who has developed several curricula in the arts, filmmaking, project management, health-related disciplines, and Christian education. Her research interest is a complex blend of project management, media and arts management, and women’s leadership studies. Dr. Worley has produced and directed a number of films, and stage plays, and she is currently in pre-production on her latest feature-length motion picture, 'Behind Church Doors.' She has presented at multiple academic and professional conferences, and her writing has been published in peer-reviewed journals and monographs, including the Project Management Journal. Dr. Worley has been a member of the Project Management Institute since 2001 and earned her project management professional (PMP) certification in 2007. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Syracuse University (1987), a Master of Fine Arts in Film from Howard University (1992), and a Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix (2014).

Extended Abstract

Virtual Leadership Support Mechanisms Beyond the Academy of the Arts is designed to facilitate the exploration of virtual support mechanisms in the traditional academy that can extend to industry and reinforce the development and professional leadership success of women, and particularly African American women, in the academy of the arts. A qualitative study of African American female progress in the cinematic arts led to the development of a grounded theory elucidating the circumstance of African American female filmmakers in particular and the prospects and strategies for exceling as leaders in the industry. Increasing the participation of women of color as an active, vocal, and visible presence in arts and entertainment is the only solution to the lack of women of color engagement. To do this requires early support and training, beginning with educational resources and artistic and professional development, along with advocacy to fill the vacuum created by the absence of an ethnic female vision, the wealth and diversity of talent by women of color artists can be exposed to the general public, the business community, and the entire arts collective.

It is too easy to place insufficient progress by people of color squarely on the shoulders of mainstream society. The history of African Americans in the United States is imbued with instances of oppression, depression, segregation, and discrimination that clearly form a basis for why conditions might prevent one from being successful. All of this notwithstanding, African Americans have succeeded where others have failed, and succeeded when the odds for success were not in their favor. Historically, African Americans have created their own opportunities in the absence of mainstream allowances, such as establishing institutes of higher education when admission to mainstream colleges was not available, creating insular, affluent communities by, for, and among African Americans, and pooling their resources to produce motion pictures that told their stories.

The Virtual Leadership Support Mechanisms Beyond the Academy of the Arts workshop is intended for design thinkers, particularly those who are arts students, researchers, and professionals. The primary goal is to present, discuss, and effectuate the efficacy theory for cinematic leadership (Worley, 2014) through an interactive platform of discourse and creativity about institutionally-based virtual resources, professional development, and advocacy for women of color pursuing careers in the arts, particularly in the motion picture and television industries. Secondarily, the goal of the workshop is to explore the transferability of efficacy theory to other artistic disciplines.

The workshop will begin with a 5-minute facilitated, quick-start conversation on the topic of addressing disparity in the academy of the arts. They will be asked to respond to the questions: 1) What are the leadership challenges for women in your artistic discipline? and 2) What are the challenges to women, and women of color in particular, being equitably engaged in leadership roles (director, producer) in major box office cinema? This initial conversation will be followed by a facilitated, 10-minute divergent brainstorm session to generate new ideas and solutions for addressing gender disparity in the academy of the arts. Brainstorm activities will include rapid ideation before open discussion. The open discussion will be a round-robin, allowing every participant to contribute ideas to the brainstorm.

For the next 5 minutes of the workshop, the facilitator will introduce the Efficacy Theory of Cinema Leadership, which contextualizes the interaction of obstacles faced by women of color through the lenses of gender, ethnicity, and culture that result in consequences perpetuating the problem. Theoretically, the lenses, when used as drivers for self-determination and self-efficacy, interact with the strategies for overcoming the obstacles, and trigger potentially constructive and productive outcomes. Ethnicity, gender, and culture, then, become the engines that drive women of color, especially African American women, to achieve success by creating their own leadership opportunities.

The workshop will conclude with a small group prototyping of the grounded theory, debriefing, and wrap-up. In the breakouts, participants will spend 10 minutes using the starburst technique to work toward a virtual solution to address gender disparity in leadership in the academy of the arts. The virtual solutions can be real or imagined, and they will create them by starting with a central idea or solution and then creating a six-point star around it, with each point representing a question: who, what, when, where, why, and how. This breakout will be followed by a 10-minutes debriefing with all participants on the mechanisms or solutions they conceptualized.

In the final 5 minutes of the workshop, participants will consider how they might apply one or more of the prototype concepts in their own professional or instructional arts context, whether it is motion pictures or some other art form experiencing the same kind of gender disparity.

As a result of this workshop, attendees will: 1) gain a clearer understanding of the barriers faced by women, particularly women of color, in the arts; 2) identify and address threats and opportunities that affect a woman’s ability to achieve success in her artistic discipline; and 3) establish a potential plan of action for virtually addressing disparity in the academy of the arts. The Virtual Leadership Support Mechanisms Beyond the Academy of the Arts workshop will help participants whose profession or research interest is in the arts find each other and interact at an intellectual level to address the problems of access and opportunities. It will also allow all participants to brainstorm virtual strategies for self-efficacy specific to their artistic disciplines and connect around issues of mutual concern.