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Women of Color Speak Candidly About Their Path to the Presidency

November 28, 2018


​When it comes to finding ways to diversify the college presidency, there’s no better place to start than hearing directly from women of color presidents and chancellors. This is the focus of a new ACE publication that features interviews with four of these leaders.

Voices from the Field: Women of Color Presidents in Higher Education” is a response to findings from the latest ACE College President Study (ACPS), which show that, despite the representation of women in the presidency nearly tripling since 1986, they remain underrepresented. About one-third of college and university presidents in 2016 were women, and only 5 percent of all presidents were women of color, according to the ACPS. The 2017 edition of the ACPS was produced by ACE in partnership with the TIAA Institute​.​

In order to better understand some of the reasons for the slow growth in the number of women of color in the presidency, ACE conducted interviews with the following leaders:  Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Benedict College (SC); Waded Cruzado, president of Montana State University; Judy Miner, chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District (CA); and Judy Sakaki, president of Sonoma State University (CA). 

The Q&A format allowed the women to describe their own thoughts and perceptions about how race and gender affected their pathway to the presidency, how they measure success, and their hopes for the future of higher education leadership. 

For example, when asked what she thinks is one of the biggest issues facing women of color in a presidency today, Artis said, “There is a perception that there are certain characteristics that define women, particularly women of color, that may not necessarily be accurate, but people hold those perceptions.”

Click here to read all the interviews, which have been edited for clarity.

ACE has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion in higher education, particularly in the senior leadership ranks for people of color and women. Earlier this year, ACE released a brief called “Leading the Way to Parity: Preparation, Persistence, and the Role of Women Presidents,” which explored how a growing population of women college presidents is bringing years of experience and preparation to the role, particularly at institutions that serve post-traditional learners and students of color.  It also offered recommendations to increase the representation of women among college presidents. 

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