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UVU Professor Finds Women Leaders Underrepresented In Utah’s Educational System

1 April 2014 No Comment

April 1, 2014

For Immediate Release

University Marketing & Communications: Melinda Colton

Written by: Patricia Monsoor

Inclusiveness and cooperation are necessary to meet Utah’s impending educational challenges, and Utah women are being called to step up.

According to the third in a series of “Utah Women & Leadership” briefs authored by Susan Madsen, professor of management at Utah Valley University, and her assistants, women’s stronger decision making skills and their focus of developing others is what will ultimately enrich Utah education and influence institutions of which they are a part.

When compared to national figures, women are underrepresented in Utah’s system of higher education in most areas except the State Board of Regents, which consists of six women and 13 men (31.6 percent women) and is chaired by a woman, Bonnie Jean Beesely. Just over a quarter of all college and university president positions nationwide are filled by women (26.4 percent), and within Utah’s public higher education system, only Salt Lake Community College has a female president (12.5 percent).

Chief Academic Officer positions fill 40 percent of college and university president positions. Women currently fill 39.1 percent of these CAO positions nationwide. Utah only has two female CAOs; both are at Utah’s research institutions, the University of Utah and Utah State University.

Without growing the number of qualified candidates by increasing the number of women filling presidential grooming positions such as CAO, vice president and dean, Utah will continue to experience a bottleneck for women on their path to presidency and continue to lag behind national averages.

Utah’s K-12 public education system also shows glaring discrepancies when compared to national figures. According to a list provided by the National Association of State Boards of Education, 48.6 percent  of State Board of Education members across the country are female. In Utah, nine of 22 (40.9 percent) State Board of Education seats are held by women.

Across the country, about 24 percent of district superintendents are women, while Utah has only 12.2 percent. By comparison, the Utah State Office of Education shows women serving as principals in only 19.5 percent of high schools (10.5 percent below the national average), 32.4 percent of middle/junior high schools (9.6 percent below the national average), and 52.4 percent of elementary schools (11.6 percent below the national average).

The percentage of Utah’s district boards of education seats is fairly close to the national average, but there is a significant difference between Utah and the nation for female superintendents (11.9 percent), principals (8.4 percent) and the Utah Board of Education seats (7.7 percent).

The recent “White House Project Report: Benchmarking Women’s Leadership” reveals that the presence or absence of female academic leaders can have far reaching influences not only on the institutions themselves, but beyond that, on the scope of research and knowledge that affects everyone.

Studies indicate that when prominent female academics are involved in research, it can affect the nature of both the questions that are asked and the findings. In a nutshell, having representation from both genders will generate more balanced and comprehensive approaches to problem solving and findings.

Additionally, when women occupy senior faculty positions and top-level leadership positions in academia, male students are provided a significant opportunity to work with talented women — an experience that is increasingly valuable. “As I contemplate my career, I can honestly say that the most influential individuals that have shaped and influenced my decision-making skills have been female teachers, administrators and policy makers,” said Terry Shoemaker, Wasatch School District superintendent and a member of the UVU Board of Trustees. “Young women today need to know that they are not only needed, but desired at all leadership and policy levels.”

Furthermore, women serve as powerful role models and mentors to younger women at the beginning of their career paths as leaders themselves. “Developing leaders benefit greatly from opportunities to interact with and learn from female colleagues and executives,” said Linda Makin, UVU vice president of planning, budget and human resources. “Current and past female Utah higher education leaders have had a significant impact on my education and career.”

Utah is taking the feedback to heart with the Utah Women in Higher Education Network (UWHEN), founded in 2010. The organization was created to inspire and prepare more Utah women for leadership in higher education (uwhen.org). Representatives from all public education institutions serve on UWHEN’s board.

Madsen sets forth an urgent call to action for Utah women to keep pursuing the leadership roles within schools, colleges and universities. “Within the constantly changing national and state educational environments, leaders must now have an exceptional and diverse set of capabilities and competencies to help their institutions rise to new levels of excellence and innovation,” Madsen said. “Utah women can make the critical difference by stepping up to become the leaders our state education institutions need.”

Susan Madsen

Susan Madsen, professor of management at UVU, is urging Utah women to keep pursuing leadership roles within schools, colleges and universities.















About Woodbury School of Business

The Woodbury School of Business is the largest business school in the Utah System of Higher Education and is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The WSB supports a variety of engaged learning projects and programs, including the Entrepreneurship Institute in which students start their own business. The school is distinguished for its focus on student development, community engagement and innovative teaching. In addition to traditional undergraduate courses of study in disciplines ranging from accounting to marketing, the WSB offers an MBA program that accommodates the schedule of working professionals through evening and weekend classes.


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