Why so few women college presidents?

Tim Goral's picture
Monday, April 14, 2014

I have spent the last few days in Denver at a summit of women college presidents sponsored by HERS (Higher Education Resource Services) which is an organization that is best known for its institutes for women in leadership in higher education. I serve on the board of HERS. The dual themes of the summit were “Leading Transformation” and “Transforming Leadership.” The presidents divided their time between discussing ways to effectively govern their institutions during these times of great change and increasing the number of women leaders.

Women are significantly underrepresented among higher education presidents. Today, only 26% of the college presidents in the U.S. are women while more than 57% of the students in colleges and universities are women. Women have been in the majority among undergraduate students since 1980 and among graduate students since 1988. Women made up 10% of the college presidents in 1980 and 23% in 2006. They have increased their share of presidencies by 1 percentage point every two years; if they continue to increase their share of college presidencies at this rate, it will take 48 years to hold half of the college presidencies; that is a very, very long time.

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