Women’s Leadership Speaker Series

About the Series

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Women’s Leadership Speaker Series is a collaboration between ACE and the ACE Women’s Network Executive Council designed to attract, develop, and support women leaders in higher education. The series will include four events each year, featuring inspiring leaders and recognized experts discussing their accomplishments, challenges, and insights.

Each event in the series will provide our state networks with the opportunity to engage with these leaders and experts, host conversations about important topics with women leaders in their states, and promote action that strengthens the pipeline for women’s leadership in higher education.

2023 Series

Women of the Global Majority and Their Pathways to the Presidency

November 8, 2023

What are the barriers encountered by women of the global majority who are seeking a presidency in higher education, and what are effective strategies to mitigate them?

The pathways to presidency are different for every candidate. For some, it is a direct path through progressively responsible leadership roles in academic affairs, while others discover routes through student affairs, administrative services, or alternative areas. Additionally, some obtain presidential roles in higher education from impressive backgrounds and leadership experience in business. For women of the global majority, the pathways are often circuitous and fraught with barriers not encountered by others.

This is a bonus webinar in the 2023 Women’s Leadership Speaker Series, featuring an engaging conversation on effective strategies to alleviate identified obstacles to the presidency.


  • Jann L. Joseph, President, Georgia Gwinnett College, and Vice Chair, ACE Women's Network Executive Council
  • Ashley Gray, Lead Consultant and Researcher, ALG Consulting LLC
  • CharMaine Hines, Vice Chancellor, Academic Accountability and Policy, Wayne County Community College District

Women in Leadership and Their Well-Being

October 5, 2023

The complexity of a college or university requires that its leadership have constant availability; thus, leaders are always representing the institution. How do leaders—women in particular—craft and maintain a healthy work-life balance?

With many responsibilities, presidents of higher education institutions often have workdays of 12 hours or more, plus weekend commitments. Campus safety, enrollment, strategic financing, crisis management, accreditation, student life, athletics, alumni affairs, learning outcomes, academic freedom, and community engagement are just some of the day-to-day obstacles leaders face during their tenure. While challenging, the job is also rewarding thanks to the accomplishments of graduates, the philanthropic support of donors, and the national and international recognition of faculty and staff.


  • Kim Lee, Director of Community Engagement, ACE Connect
  • Jann L. Joseph, President, Georgia Gwinnett College, and Vice Chair, ACE Women's Network Executive Council
  • Barbara Gellman-Danley, President, Higher Learning Commission
  • Patrice Buckner Jackson, Founder and Lead Facilitator, EduCare Training and Consulting, LLC

Leading in Rural America

July 27, 2023

Serving at the helm of a complex organization such as a college or university requires nimble and strategic leadership skills that align with the dynamic demands of the institution and broader community. College presidents are essential leaders across numerous sectors, including education, business and industry, health care, ecumenical, and social services.

While each presidential appointment is unique, presidents who are leading institutions located in rural America or institutions that primarily serve learners from Indigenous populations have notably different experiences than those leading larger campuses located in metropolitan areas. Women presidents, a minority in the college presidency, also have distinct experiences. Data from ACE’s The American College President: 2023 Edition indicated that 33 percent of presidencies were held by women, and 44 percent of associate degree granting institutions were led by a woman.


  • Kim Lee, Director of Community Engagement, ACE Connect
  • Maria Gallo, Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-River Falls
  • Rachel Desmarais, President, Vance-Granville Community College
  • Ardis Eschenberg, Chancellor, Windward Community College
  • Tiffany Sanderson, President, Lake Area Technical College

Advancing Women Leaders Through Advocacy and Policy

April 13, 2023

Michelle Asha Cooper of the Lumina Foundation and Boston University’s Mary L. Churchill engage in a conversation about how advocacy and policy at institutional, state, and federal levels can support the advancement of women in higher education leadership.

This event took place on April 13, 2023, at the ACE Women’s Leadership Dinner in Washington, DC, in conjunction with ACE2023, ACE’s Annual Meeting.


  • Mary L. Churchill, Associate Dean and Professor of the Practice, Boston University
  • Michelle Asha Cooper, Vice President for Public Policy and Executive Director, Washington, DC Office, Lumina Foundation

Advocacy: A Proven Strategy to Challenge the Erosion of Women’s Rights

March 29, 2023

Last summer was marked by the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The education sector continues to recognize advances in gender equity and mitigate challenges for women in ascending to top leadership roles and tenure in higher education.

Though we should continually celebrate the contributions of women and advocate for fair treatment, March is Women’s History Month. Our expert panel discusses how advocacy for women’s rights serves as a conduit for gender equity and ideates about how we move forward.


  • Kim Lee, Director of Community Engagement, ACE Connect
  • Maria Gallo, Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-River Falls
  • Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres, Dean of the Burnett Honors College and Professor of Public Administration, University of Central Florida
  • Gloria D. Thomas, President, HERS
2022 Series

​Intersectionality and Women of Color in Higher Education Leadership

September 28, 2022

​​Today’s challenges require leadership that is well-respected, well-positioned, and well-resourced at the institutional level to identify and implement meaningful strategies.

Representing only 5.4 percent of top executive officers at non-minority serving institutions, women of color experience leadership roles quite differently from men and white women leaders. Based on the pioneering work of Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality provides a prism, or lens, to better understand how the intersection of sexism and racism impacts women of color.

​This is the fourth installment in the 2022 Women’s Leadership Speaker Series. Maria Gallo, president of the ACE Women’s Network Executive Council, engages in dialogue with three distinguished women of color in executive leadership roles.


  • Maria Gallo, Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-River Falls
  • Paulette Dilworth, Chief Diversity Officer, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Judy C. Miner, Chancellor, Foothill-De Anza Community College District
  • Belle Wheelan, President, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
View Recording

​Title IX: Celebrating 50 Year​​s and Preparing for the Future

July 13​, 2022 

Title IX passed​​ 50 years ago.

Since that momentous event on June 23, 1972, the education sector has been realizing advances in gender equity and sex discrimination has been prohibited in any educational program or activity receiving federal funds.

Help us celebrate this milestone ​and join our discussion on progress made so far and plans for the next 50 years. We will acknowledge the many accomplishments resulting from Title IX passage and consider future legislative implications that aim to accomplish optimum gender equity across every aspect of higher education.


  • Luoluo Hong, Vice President for Student Engagement and Well-Being, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Gayle E. Hutchinson, President, California State University, Chico
  • Linda Livingstone, President, Baylor University
  • Fayneese S. Miller, President, Hamline University

A Conversation With Thasunda Brown Duckett

March 5, 2022

WNEC chair Judy Sakaki engaged TIAA’s CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett in a conversation about issues important for women leaders.

This event took place at the ACE Women’s Leadership Dinner in San Diego, in conjunction with ACE2022, ACE’s Annual Meeting.


  • Thasunda Brown Duckett, President and Chief Executive Officer, TIAA
  • Judy Sakaki, President, Sonoma State University (CA), and Past Chair, Women's Network Executive Council (WNEC)
View Recording​

Advancing to Leadership Roles in Higher Education: A Conversation with Scholars Barbara Cozza and Ceceilia Parnther

February 8, 2022

The inaugural event of the ACE Women’s Leadership Speaker Series featured scholars Barbara Cozza and Ceceilia Parnther from the Department of Administrative and Instructional Leadership at St. John’s University discussing their upcoming book, Voices from Women Leaders on Success in Higher Education. The book, scheduled for release in February 2022, advises aspiring and current women leaders on how to advance into higher education leadership roles.

Ted Mitchell, president of ACE, and Judy K. Sakaki, chair of the ACE Women’s Network Executive Council and president of Sonoma State University, joined the dynamic conversation with the authors.


  • Barbara Cozza, Chairperson and Professor, Department of Administrative and Instructional Leadership, St. John's University
  • Ted Mitchell, President, American Council on Education
  • Ceceilia Parnther, Assistant Professor, Department of Administrative and Instructional Leadership, St. John's University
  • Judy Sakaki, President, Sonoma State University (CA), and Past Chair, Women's Network Executive Council (WNEC)
View Recording​
About the ACE Women's Network

The ACE Women’s Network facilitates the networking of women interested in pursuing leadership opportunities in higher education. A four-part structure—Network Executive Council, independent, state-based networks with state chairs, presidential sponsors, and institutional representatives—facilitates these connections, allows for sharing of best practices, particularly at the State Chairs Annual Conference, and enables local leadership training by the state networks.​

Learn More

Latest Recording

The bonus webinar "Women of the Global Majority and Their Pathways to the Presidency" was held on November 8.

View Recording