Report Finds Lack of Representation for Women and Women of Color in the U.S. University Presidency

February 7, 2022

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Title: The Women’s Power Gap at Elite Universities: Scaling the Ivory Tower

Authors: Andrea Silbert, Magdalena Punty, Elizabeth Brodbine Ghoniem

Source: Eos Foundation-The Women’s Power Gap Initiative and American Association of University Women

A recently published report offers insights about women, particularly women of color, in the U.S. university presidency. The authors of this report surveyed and analyzed data on 130 R1 universities (highest level of research activity), as well as 20 multi-campus systems and eight state governing boards.

From their analyses, the authors outlined several findings:

  • While women have outnumbered men in college for decades, only 22 percent of university presidents in the report’s sample are women.
  • While women of color are now the fastest-growing population in higher education, only five percent of the researchers’ sample are women of color.
  • Almost half of the universities sampled have had zero women presidents ever in the history of their institutions.
  • Although data show that the number of Black men presidents has doubled, the rate of Black women in the presidency did not see comparable increases.
  • Public universities outpaced private universities in increases around diversity of presidents. However, most of those gains were seen from hiring more Black men, not women of color.
  • The authors point out that these numbers do not represent a “pipeline issue.” From their data, they found that three-fourths of all presidents found their pathway to the presidency via academic positions, such as academic deans and provosts. Yet, although women were in 40 percent of those roles, they still faced low representation in the role of university presidency.

Based upon their findings, the authors detailed recommendations related to women, especially women of color, in the university presidency:

  • Take on intersectional lenses when analyzing, setting goals, and benchmarking related to women and women of color in the presidency.
  • Listen to the perspectives of people who are marginalized from leadership positions, determining ways to elevate them.
  • Learn from those institutions that have found success in such areas, creating and adhering to policies that challenge the status quo in higher education.

To read the full report, click here

Related to this topic, this year’s iteration of ACE’s American College President Survey (ACPS) will more deeply explore the pathways to the college/university presidency through the intersectional lenses of race and gender. Click here for more information.  

—Ty McNamee

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