Although women earn the majority of postsecondary degrees, they occupy just 26 percent of all college presidencies, according to recent data from ACE. To coordinate efforts to bridge that gap, ACE’s Inclusive Excellence Group last month convened Working Together to Move the Needle: Advancing Women in Higher Education Leadership.
More than 30 representatives from a variety of institutions and associations which have an active leadership agenda for women attended the meeting. Participating organizations included the National Council for Research on Women, the Association of Governing Boards, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and members of the ACE Women’s Network Executive Council, who helped plan the event.
“Although all these groups have done great work to address the gaps in women’s leadership, this meeting marked the first time many of the organizations had come together to discuss their efforts on the issue and to explore opportunities for collaboration,” said Diana Córdova, assistant vice president for Leadership Programs at ACE. “I hope that our cooperation and coordination will ultimately help many women move into top-tier positions, especially presidencies, in higher education.”
The group discussed the challenges that can hold women back across professional fields and in the academic world specifically. Among the topics was the evolving role of the “mentor” into a “sponsor.” Sponsors, beyond modeling and providing feedback, help their mentees find jobs and other opportunities. Participants also discussed how to better coordinate leadership programs at their organizations and raise wider awareness about the dearth of women in top positions.
ACE also honored Marie Foster Gnage, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg and outgoing chair of its Women’s Network Executive Council, during the meeting. As chair, she oversaw the work of ACE’s Women’s Network in states across the country. She will be succeeded by Lisa Rossbacher, president of Southern Polytechnic State University (GA).
The group plans to reconvene on a periodic basis to discuss the results of an ACE environmental scan of women’s leadership efforts and develop long-term goals and an action plan.
ACE’s Inclusive Excellence Group
ACE Women’s Network
National Women's Leadership Forum
Regional Women's Leadership Forum