By: Judith S. White
Edited By: Suzanne Sable
If you are new to HERS, we are delighted you are here! You are joining a thriving community of nearly 5000 HERS Institute Alumnae, senior women leaders in higher education, and advocates, all of whom are committed to advancing women’s leadership and gender equity in the academic sector and beyond.
With the 2013 release of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, the topic of women’s leadership in the workplace is once again a hot topic of conversation, and one that has gone viral. From the creation of Lean In – the organization – to the dozens of articles praising and criticizing Sandberg’s book, two things are very clear: 1) the topic of gender equity and women’s leadership in the workplace is here to stay, and 2) the power of digital communication and social media is very real – and combined, the possibilities are endless. HERS is ready to seize the moment.
More than forty years before Sheryl Sandberg made the argument on the importance of women leaders, HERS was supporting key educational equity legislation – Title IX – by providing leadership development opportunities to women working in higher education. After much transition and expansion since our founding in 1972, HERS is honored to still be serving the higher education sector and the cadre of women leaders who look to us for support on their journey to the top.
Despite the progress that has been made for gender equity and equality in the academic workplace, much work still needs to be done. Female students continue to have higher enrollments and hold more advanced degrees than their male peers; however, these numbers have yet to translate into leadership positions in the institution.
According to the 2012 American Council on Education (ACE) report, just 26% of college and university presidents are women. That’s higher than the average of 20% of CEO roles held by women across 14 sectors of the US economy reported in the 2013 Colorado Women’s College Benchmarking Women’s Leadership in U.S. report.
Why are women not occupying top leadership positions in the academy?
New research HERS has done with the Center for Creative Leadership and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, supported by TIAA-CREF, indicates that women who are presidents, chancellors, provosts and vice presidents have all faced serious obstacles and discouragements. They have overcome these through actions we can all take and with supports we can all offer each other. Also, we found that they are very glad that they have undertaken these successful leadership journeys because of the difference they have been able to make for others along the way.
The women of color among the leaders interviewed spoke about some challenges and some satisfactions that were even stronger for them than for the white women interviewed. We are eager to understand those differences better and to use the insights to help create better alliances so that white women and women of color can support each other throughout our careers.
HERS will be reporting on this new research at the 2nd HERS Summit for Women Presidents & Chancellors. Seventy women presidents and chancellors and other women leaders in higher education will be gathering to reflect and connect on these topics and explore new ways that we can all contribute to the advancement of female leaders in all sectors.
Also, we will be sharing commentary and insight from the Summit and the research presented on HERS Notes in the coming weeks from several guest bloggers who have experienced leading in higher education firsthand.
Central to our mission, HERS will continue assessing and improving the HERS Institute leadership curriculum and sharing critical elements of our work in a variety of ways—references and resources on the website, advice and reflections on our blog, and news about activities of interest through social media.
HERS staff will work with HERS alumnae and our partners and sponsors to encourage gatherings and personal connections among women on campuses across the country and at conferences or meetings you recommend to us.
We encourage you to join us. Only with your support, can we make this a more diverse, vibrant, and flourishing community.