Women Presidents

The percentage of women college presidents has slowly increased over the last 30 years. However, women remain underrepresented and typically follow different paths to the presidency than men.


In 2016, three out of 10 college presidents were women. Women were more likely than men to have altered their career progression to care for others.

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Institutions Served

Women were more likely to lead public institutions than private institutions in 2016. They were most underrepresented among doctorate-granting institutions, and were more likely than men to lead public special focus institutions.

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Path to the Presidency

In 2016, women were more likely than men to be first-time college presidents and had shorter tenure in their presidency than men. Women were also more likely than men to have served as a chief academic officer, provost, or dean in their immediate prior position.

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Related Content

Moving the Needle: Advancing Women in Higher Education Leadership
This collaborative, multi-association initiative seeks to raise national awareness of the importance of achieving gender parity and suggests practices aimed at achieving the goal of equal representation of women in senior leadership positions in higher education.

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Pipelines, Pathways, and Institutional Leadership: An Update on the Status of Women in Higher Education
In the effort to promote dialogue on how to move the needle and increase the number of women leaders, learn about current trends on women in higher education. Next steps are provided from important work at the University of Denver.

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Leading the Way to Parity: Preparation, Persistence, and the Role of Women Presidents

Female college presidents experience additional expectations and demands on their time and energy than their male counterparts. This work reveals how, despite those disparities, women are equipped to lead and persist in the role in unique ways. These findings contribute to our understanding of what helps women reach for—and succeed in—the office. (3.3 MB PDF)

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