Higher Ed Stakeholders Begin Work to Address Equity and Parity in College Presidency
August 11, 2023

​The population of current presidents throughout U.S. higher education is still not representative of the students served. This key finding from ACE’s 2023 American College President Study (ACPS) was the impetus behind a two-day summit that focused on finding ways to achieve parity and equity in the college presidency over the next 10 years.

A group of around 35 higher education trustees, presidential search firm consultants, scholars, and organizations took part in the in-person “innovation lab,” hosted by ACE and generously supported by the TIAA Institute. ACE Director of Practice and Research Hollie Chessman kicked off the discussions and working sessions with a presentation of current ACPS data and the challenges ahead.

According to ACPS, men outnumber women two to one in the presidency and women of color account for a little over one out of 10 presidents, “and that is likely an overrepresentation,” Chessman said. “In sum, we’re seeing a slow progression towards parity and equity by gender and race and ethnicity, but to truly reach parity over the next 10 years, we would need to see a majority of presidential vacancies filled by women and people of color. This was an opportunity to convene the key stakeholders and thought leaders to come up with creative and ambitious new ideas.”

C. Emmanuel Wright, an intern at ACE and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, also shared his insights on the critical connection between students and the college presidency, specifically on the role students can and should play in presidential searches.

The goal for the event was for attendees to work together in groups to create potential plans that could be implemented as part of the effort to improve the presidential pathway and eliminate the barriers women and people of color face within the higher education ecosystem.

One potential idea involved encouraging institutions and boards to implement equity-minded transition plans to not only attract marginalized candidates but support them through the onboarding process and beyond.

“This is an opportunity to ensure everyone is on board to support that person and talk openly and be an ally when there are microaggressions and how a leader might experience those,” said attendee Felicia McGinty, director of engagement and outreach for HERS. “If we work on these transitions—really center them on equity—we’re talking about a cultural shift in supporting a new leader.”

Other ideas included creating a system for getting parity on boards and stronger, measurable efforts in succession planning, which would enable and encourage women and people of color to apply for presidential positions and expand the potential pathway.

Participants narrowed the ideas down to five “prototypes,” which will further be assessed and designed into more detailed concepts later this year. ACE plans to choose one prototype to pilot by the end of 2023.

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​​ACE Innovation Lab on Parity and Equity in the College Presidency: Participant List

Kim Bobby, Principal, AGB Search

Lesley Boyd*, Vice President, Search Operations, Storbeck Search

Andy Brantley, President and Chief Executive Officer, CUPA-HR

Jorge Burmicky, Assistant Professor, Howard University

Hollie Chessman, Director of Practice and Research, American Council on Education

Felecia Commodore, Associate Professor, Old Dominion University

Jeanne Contardo, Consultant, Higher Ed Insight

Guillermo Corea, Managing Director, Workplace Innovation Lab & Venture Capital, SHRM

Anne Coyle, Consultant, Russell Reynolds

Pamela Eddy, Professor and Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Development, William and Mary

Ashley Gray, Educational Consultant, ALG Consulting

Jan Greenwood, Co-Founder, Greenwood/Asher & Associates

Marjorie Hass, President, Council of Independent Colleges

Aileen Hefferren, Principal and Chair, Hefferren Consulting & Kenyon College Board of Trustees

Liz Howard, Research Content Specialist, American Council on Education

Nat Irvin II, Assistant Dean of Thought Leadership and Civic Engagement; Woodrow M. Strickler Chair, Professor of Management Practice, University of Louisville College of Business

Marsha Krotseng*, Member, Board of Trustees, Women's Network Executive Council and HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College

Kimberly Lee, Director of Community Strategy and Engagement, American Council on Education

Lucy Leske*, Senior Partner, WittKieffer

Felicia McGinty, Director of Engagement and Outreach, HERS Network

Demetri Morgan, Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago

Jennifer Muller*, Managing Partner & Senior Consultant, Academic Career and Executive Search

Hironao Okahana, Assistant Vice President and Executive Director, Education Futures Lab, American Council on Education

Anne Ollen, Managing Director, TIAA Institute

Ronald C. Parker*, Member, Board of Directors, Association of Governing Boards

Pamela Pezzoli, Partner, Isaacson, Miller

Kate Potterfield, Marketing and Communications Director, Higher Ed Insight

Raquel Rall, Associate Professor & Faculty Chair, University of California, Riverside

Liliana Rodríguez*, Vice President and Senior Consultant, Keeling & Associates

Angel Royal, Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, American Association of Community Colleges

Kathleen Scott, Vice President of Leadership Development and Partnerships, American Association of State Colleges and Universities

Cynthia Shapira*, Member, Board of Directors, Association of Governing Boards

Darsella Vigil, Senior Research Analyst, American Council on Education

C. Emmanuel Wright, Intern, Government Relations, American Council on Education

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* Member of the ACE Innovation Lab Steering Committee

Moving the Needle: Advancing Women in Higher Education Leadership

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American College President: 2023 Edition

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