women in higher education

7 challenges women STILL face in higher ed-and how to fix them

Low numbers of women in higher education present challenges the industry must solve.

While more than half of all college students are women, less than one-third of all full-time professors are women–and the troubling gaps in academia are proving difficult to close.

But the low representation of women in higher education isn’t indicative of their qualifications to be higher-ed leaders, according to Higher Ed Spotlight: Pipelines, Pathways, and Institutional Leadership: An Update on the Status of Women in Higher Education.

The pipeline myth, or the idea that there are too few women qualified to hold leadership positions, is exactly that–a myth. While there may be qualified women, are they holding higher-ed leadership positions at a stead rate?

The report offers an update on women in higher education and sheds some light on the positions and degrees they hold, salary gaps, and more.

1. New data indicate there are more than enough qualified women in higher education who can fill available leadership positions, and women are being prepared at a greater rate than men. Women have earned more than 50 percent of all doctoral degrees since 2006, more than 50 percent of all bachelor’s degrees since 1982, more than 50 percent of all master’s degrees since 1987, and more than 50 percent of all associate degrees since 1978.

2. But despite these encouraging statistics and despite women’s availability for higher-ed leadership positions, they do not hold associate professor or full professor positions at the same rate as men.

3. The higher the academic rank, the fewer women present. Women of color often outnumber men of color in lower-ranking faculty positions, but men of color hold full professor positions more often than women of color.

4. Perhaps one of the biggest indicators is the pay gap between men and women who hold the same faculty rank. During the 2015-2016 academic year, male faculty members made an average of $89,190, and female faculty members made an average of $73,782. Men are more likely than women to earn a higher salary and to hold a tenure track position.

5. The number of women presidents has increased since 1986, but as of 2016, women only hold 30 percent of presidencies across all higher-ed institutions. However, women presidents are more likely to have a PhD or EdD than their male peers.

6. Women presidents are more likely to have served as a chief academic officer, provost or other senior executive in academic affairs. Male presidents are more likely to come from outside higher ed or have had a different senior campus executive role than women presidents.

7. The percentage of women serving in a chief academic officer position has declined from 2008 to 2013 in public doctoral degree-granting institutions.

(Next page: Areas for future action)

Laura Ascione