Lynn Gangone, vice president of ACE Leadership at the American Council on Education, offers her insight into gender equity in academia. For more from Gangone, check out “The New Role Call” in our May issue. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll email you when it’s available online.
What’s the biggest change in your industry in the past year?
While it has been a tumultuous and surprising political year, what has not changed is that women continuing to make their voices heard in the public arena, whether by running for public office, breaking barriers in the workplace or rallying for change, even if sometimes that progress appears slower than we might like. Regardless of your political or partisan viewpoint, the Women’s March in Washington is an example of women organizing to speak out and have an impact on the national stage. At my organization, we launched a call-to-action campaign in early 2016 called “Moving the Needle: Women in Higher Education Leadership,” which asks university leaders to commit to gender parity. We have had over 500 college presidents from all sectors of higher education sign onto the commitment so far, which is huge. I’m not sure something like this would have been possible just a few years ago.
What do you foresee as the biggest change on the horizon in the year to come?
While I cannot say for certain, I hope that we see change in who is leading colleges and universities. Women represent the majority of undergraduate student populations, and these students deserve to see women lead. They should be able to connect with more role models who are not only leaders, but women leaders. ACE will release a new edition of its American College President Study this summer, the premier demographic survey of college and university presidents, and I am hopeful it will reflect that the needle has moved. Regardless of what the data indicates about the extent of progress made, I know my team and I will remain as committed as ever to expanding the leadership pipeline.
I recently met Timothy White, the chancellor of the California State University System, and thanked him for hiring so many women in his system. His response: “Don’t thank me, I’m just hiring the best.” If we can continue to make this shift in thinking, remembering that men are our allies as well, we can make a difference.
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