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He noted that the most dramatic growth has been within two-year institutions. This, he said, reflects the growing number of female students pursuing two-year degrees in fields such as health care that demand leaders who share their experiences.
Four-year institutions see more of a gender gap. The number of women leaders at doctoral-granting institutions, for example, grew from 14 percent to 22 percent in 2011, according to ACE research, but has remained flat since. The University of Minnesota never has had a female president.
To move that needle, we need to focus on what educators call “the pipeline.” Most university presidents follow the traditional path, working their way up the ranks.
“Being provost tends to be the most common route,” said Rebecca Hawthorne, director of the organizational leadership program at St. Catherine University, whose president, Sister Andrea Lee, follows a strong legacy of female leaders.
More than a third of university presidents nationally follow the provost path, Hawthorne said, “and, yet, women only hold 40 percent of those positions.”
With “a huge surge of retirements” expected in the next decade, (60 percent of presidents are 61 or older) she predicts abundant opportunities opening up for women.
It will be interesting to see who fills the considerable shoes of Linda Hanson, the first woman to lead Hamline University, after she steps down in 2015.
Stay tuned for that news.
Natalie Ghaffari, a senior at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, contributed to this column. Natalie is participating in School District 196’s Mentor Program.
Follow Gail on Twitter: @grosenblum