History of the ACE Women's Network

With a grant from the Carnegie Corporation in 1977, ACE’s Office of Women in Higher Education founded the ACE National Identification Program (NIP), which is now known as the ACE Women’s Network. The purpose of the NIP was to address issues relating to women’s advancement in higher education leadership. It is a mission that is still relevant today, and one that is supported by our state networks across the nation. In 1977, California, New York, and Florida became the first states to create an ACE National Identification Program. Within a year, they were joined by Wisconsin, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. New Jersey followed shortly thereafter.

Five years later, the ACE Women’s Network became a state-based national program. The initial grant proposed creating state planning boards with representation reflecting the state’s higher education structure. A woman holding a senior-level administrative position at a college or university would lead the planning committee as the state chair. Working with a panel of advisors of men and women leaders within the state, the planning committee and state chair were expected to create effective strategies to identify and advance women into senior leadership positions within the state’s colleges and universities.

Over time, the state networks have developed organizational structures that best fit their particular state and their specific needs. Nonetheless, the structure of a planning board, a state chair, institutional representatives, and the support of college presidents remain the hallmarks of the ACE Women’s Network. The state networks are linked to one another through their affinity with the Inclusive Excellence Group and a national executive council composed of women executives who serve as both mentors to the state chairs and advisors to the staff.

Today, the ACE Women’s Network Executive Council (WNEC) uses geographic locations to divide mentoring responsibilities for individual state networks among its members. The chair of the WNEC works directly with ACE​​ to coordinate activities. State chairs are also advised by college and university presidents who have agreed to serve as presidential sponsors for specific states.

In 1997, NIP was renamed the ACE National Network for Women Leaders in Higher Education. The office was renamed ACE Women’s Network in 2002.

Expand the interactive timeline below to explore this rich history. Once open, press the red play button below the title to listen to an audio narration of this exciting story.

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What Is the ACE Women's Network?

​​​​​The ACE Women’s Network is a national system of networks within each state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia with the goal of advancing and supporting women in higher education. Each state network is led by a state chair who works with institutional representatives and at least one presidential sponsor to develop programs that identify, develop, encourage, advance, link, and support (IDEALS) women in higher education careers within that state.

The state networks are linked to one another through their connection with the American Council on Education (ACE)​ and the ACE Women’s Network Executive Council, a group of senior women executives from across the country who serve as both mentors to the state chairs and as advisers to ACE on the overall functioning of the ACE Women’s Network. State chairs also benefit from the mentorship and advice from college and university presidents and chancellors who have agreed to serve as presidential sponsors.

Mission and Core Principles of the Network

Our Mission

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.​

Core Principles

The network develops programs and initiatives that align with a shared set of core principles known as the IDEALS. With these IDEALS, we aim to:

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ACE Women's Network Directory

ACE encourages faculty and women administrators from across the country to join and participate in their state network events. ​

State Networks Directory

Moving the Needle Initiative

Through the Moving the Needle: Advancing Women in Higher Education Leadership initiative, ACE aims to bring national awareness to the importance of achieving gender parity and diversity in higher education leadership.

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