• 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?

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

The Global Gender Gap Report tracks progress towards closing gender gaps on a national level. To turn these insights into concrete action and national progress, we have developed the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators model for public private collaboration.

These accelerators have been convened in ten countries across three regions. Accelerators are established in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Panama in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean, Egypt and Jordan in the Middle East and North Africa, and Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

All Country Accelerators, along with Knowledge Partner countries demonstrating global leadership in closing gender gaps, are part of a wider ecosystem, the Global Learning Network, that facilitates exchange of insights and experiences through the Forum’s platform.

In 2019 Egypt became the first country in the Middle East and Africa to launch a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator. While more women than men are now enrolled in university, women represent only a little over a third of professional and technical workers in Egypt. Women who are in the workforce are also less likely to be paid the same as their male colleagues for equivalent work or to reach senior management roles.

In these countries CEOs and ministers are working together in a three-year time frame on policies that help to further close the economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized childcare and removing unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator countries you can join the local membership base.

If you are a business or government in a country where we currently do not have a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator you can reach out to us to explore opportunities for setting one up.