Women in Higher Education Leadership: Challenges Are Many While Opportunities Are Few

Women in Higher Education Leadership: Challenges Are Many While Opportunities Are Few

Freda Ginsberg (Holy Family University, USA), Julia Davis (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA) and Andrea Simms (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7056-1.ch013

Abstract

This chapter will provide the reader with a comprehensive overview of the reality that there are far fewer women than men in higher education leadership, and in particular, at the most prestigious educational institutions. In addition, this chapter will cover the key explanatory factors that underpin this phenomenon. Likewise, this chapter will review the existing organizational change models that are designed to address this problem. Specifically, the recruitment, retention, and promotion of diverse women to the academy will be addressed.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

There are far fewer women than men in higher education leadership, specifically at the most prestigious doctoral granting educational institutions. In fact, according to the American Council on Education’s most recent 2017 and 2012 national studies, the lion’s share of college presidents, approximately 74% of the total, were White, 61 year old, heterosexual men (ACE Center for Policy Research, 2017a; ACE Center for Policy Research, 2012). Conversely, women are largely underrepresented at the highest levels of university leadership, particularly in the Office of the President. Given the sweeping incline in female enrolment in higher education over the years, one should question why there has not been a similar increase in the trend towards gender equality in academic leadership roles (Maphalala & Mpofu, 2017).

In the United States, 56.5% of all college students are women, yet in 2017 only 26% of college presidents were women, a slight increase from the 23% in 2012 (ACE Center for Policy Research, 2017a; ACE Center for Policy Research, 2012). And even though the rate of women holding a university presidency rose slightly from 26% to 30% between 2012 and 2016, that growth rate was notably slower than that of the decade prior, indicating the slowing of a once promising trend (ACE Center for Policy Research, 2017a).

In the past decade, the struggle of female academics to attain leadership positions in the academy has received attention in the literature. In 2008, researchers found that women made up only 16% of executive vice presidents, 19% of deans, and 23% of provosts (King & Gomez, 2008). Similarly, in its most recent 2013-2014 Chief Academic Officers Survey (CAOS), the American Council for Education Center for Policy Research reported that women held 43.6% of CAO positions in the United States, but only 26.1% of these CAO positions were at the more prestigious doctoral granting universities (ACE Center for Policy Research, 2017b). Interestingly, this survey revealed that women held 54.7% of CAO positions at associate degree granting institutions. Therefore, while women may outnumber men as CAOs in 2-year colleges, allowing them easier access to attaining the Presidency therein, they have far fewer leadership opportunities at the most highly regarded educational institutions (see Table 1).

Table 1.
Percentage of vice-president of student affairs by institution type
Institution TypeFemaleMale
Associate’s52%45%
Baccalaureate50%48%
Master’s granting40%55%
Doctoral granting & research37%59%

Note: Adapted from 2014 NASPA VPSA Census Data

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset