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Report finds lack of women in leadership positions in higher education

February 10, 2022
By: Caleb Kirsch

Women in academia are underrepresented in leadership positions at the 130 universities ranked as R1 (the highest level of research activity by the Carnegie Classification), a recent report done by the Eos Foundation’s Women’s Power Gap (WPG) Initiative found. The report found that women make up 55 percent of all PhD earners, but just 22 percent of all the presidents and 10 percent of system presidents of R1 universities as of September 2021. The study also found that 46 percent of the universities in the study had never had a woman leader.  

The Women’s Power Gap Initiative focuses on increasing the number of women in CEO and C-suite positions around the country. The WPG research is conducted to outline the power and wage gaps in prominent sectors such as higher education with the intentions of increasing representation and inclusion.

Eos Foundation’s report also found that:

  • Women of color comprise only 5 percent of all presidents.
  • Not all deans are treated equally — the study found lower pay for deans in female dominated fields such as nursing, social sciences, and social work.
  • No school has reached gender parity in tenured full professors.

Eos has several recommendations in terms of changing higher education. It encourages boards, in collaboration with presidents, to make bold, long-term public commitments to reach equitable representation in top leadership and require each college, graduate school, and academic center within their university to do the same. It also recommends that governors who appoint chairs and board members for system boards and regents should choose candidates who have experience in promoting systemic change around diversity, equity, and inclusion. And it also holds that individuals need to challenge the status quo by holding their school’s board and president accountable to include women in positions of power.

The full study, The Women's Power Gap At Elite Universities; Scaling The Ivory Tower, can be found here.

women, higher ed