Gender Inequality

Gender gap persists at all levels of leadership in US universities, report finds

Two women at a whiteboard.

Women hold only a fifth of leadership positions at top US research universities. Image: UNSPLASH/ThisisEngineering RAEng

Anna Fleck
Data Journalist, Statista
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Gender Inequality?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Gender Inequality is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Gender Inequality

  • Women hold only a fifth of leadership positions at top US research universities, a new report by the Eos Foundation shows.
  • This is despite women gaining more degrees than men over the last 40 years.
  • A long-term, public commitment to equity is needed from university boards to tackle the implicit gender bias in the hiring process, the report says.

Only 22 percent of the leadership positions of America’s top research universities are filled by women, according to a new report by the Eos Foundation. The situation for women of color is even more dismal, at only 5 percent. These numbers are even more striking when taking into account the academic success of women, who achieved more Bachelor’s degrees for the last 40 years, more Master’s degrees for the last 35, and more Doctoral’s for the last 15 in the U.S. than men.

Of the 130 public and private schools surveyed, 60 had never had a female president. When ranked, the University of California, Santa Cruz, the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), and the University of New Hampshire (UNH), came out on top, coming in at first, second, and third place respectively. According to Forbes, reasons for underrepresentation include a lack of diversity in hiring processes and systemic bias. Implicit bias against “feminine” academic work is also an obstacle to women’s progress, as found by Research by Stanford Graduate School of Education.

The authors of the report, Andrea Silbert, Magdalena Punty, and Elizabeth Brodbine Ghoniem, write: “Let’s be clear: The power gap is not a ‘pipeline’ issue. Our research found that women account for nearly 40 percent of all academic deans and provosts, from which 75 percent of all presidents are drawn. Their dramatic drop in the presidential ranks suggests that they still encounter systemic roadblocks one step from the top.” In order to see changes, the Eos Foundation is calling for university boards and presidents to make long-term public commitments to equity, and to produce annual reports to show their progress.

This chart shows how men continue to get the top jobs in U.S. universities.
Men continue to get the top jobs in U.S. universities. Image: Statista

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Why clear job descriptions matter for gender equality

Kara Baskin

February 22, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum