Summit Trails

HERS Commitment

Increasing the number of women in top positions across the academy requires the dedication and support of many. While female students now make up 50% of the student body, campus presidencies held by women remains at 25% – a figure that has barely changed in the past ten years.  HERS is committed to increasing the number of women leaders that reach the “Summit” of institutions as presidents or chancellors.  To help in this mission, HERS is partnering with organizations supporting gender equity and diverse leadership in higher education to blaze new trails for women to move into senior positions.

HERS will be using these pages to share research, insights and resources for women seeking senior leadership roles.


HERS Research Brief No. 1

Susan R. Madsen, Utah Valley University: Why Do We Need More Women Leaders in Higher Education? 


Stories from the Summit Trail: Leadership Journeys of Senior Women in Higher Education

In conjunction with the 2012 Summit for Women Presidents & Chancellors, HERS launched a research collaboration with the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) and the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). Led by senior researchers Pamela Shockely-Zalabak, Chancellor of UCCS; and Kelly Hannum, Director, Global Research Insights at CCL; and assisted by funding from TIAA-CREF, a research team interviewed a diverse group of 35 women presidents, chancellors and cabinet-level officers identified through the HERS Community. The research team presented their preliminary findings for discussion at the 2014 Summit.

These women leaders were asked to discuss positive and negative aspects of their experiences in senior roles, as well as supports and obstacles during their careers. The goal of this project is to combine insights specific to the field of higher education, with recent research on women executives in other sectors, to address the current stall in women’s advancement.

Together with its partners – UCCS, CCL and TIAA-CREF – HERS is committed to blazing new trails for women’s leadership.

Download the report, Stories from the Summit Trail: Leadership Journeys of Senior Women in Higher Education.

The infographic below was created for the Research Report from data presented in the recently release study, Benchmarking Women’s Leadership in the United States 2013, by the Colorado Women’s College.

Summit Reflections

The HERS Summit for Women Presidents & Chancellors took place April 10-12, 2014 in Denver. CO.  Sixty-five women presidents and chancellors and other women leaders in higher education gathered to reflect on their experiences leading in higher education and to explore new ways that we can all contribute to the advancement of female leaders in all sectors.  We invited two of these women leaders to share their insights from the Summit and their own experiences leading in higher education on HERS Notes, which are also linked below.  

“No se termina nunca de nacer” ~Nicanor Parra, Chile, 1914

“The gendering of leadership: understanding through the lens of sameness and difference?”

Leading Transformation

Women presidents and chancellors and other senior women leaders at the 2014 HERS Summit valued the opportunity to examine the personal dimensions of leading. Presenters and participants of the Summit shared their reflections on how facing leadership challenges across their careers had prompted their own experiences of transformation.

Challenges & Satisfactions

2014 HERS Summit participants had the chance to hear a preview of the findings from interviews with thirty-five women presidents and vice presidents from a wide variety of colleges and universities. They were invited to respond to what they learned from the research and to add insights from their own journeys to senior leadership.

Making Commitments

Higher education is undergoing a period of unprecedented change. The need for education and advanced study has never been greater, but the political and financial support for our work is uncertain at best. Our responses to these challenges will shape our nation for many years. At this critical period, HERS is encouraging women leaders to raise a collective voice for equality and excellence as the guiding principles for our decisions.