BOSTON – Women account for almost half of all provosts and more than half of deans at Massachusetts colleges and universities, but only 31 percent of the presidents and chancellors, according to a new report that calls for added diversity to strengthen Bay State campuses.

The Eos Foundation report, "Women's Power Gap in Higher Education," ranks 93 colleges and universities in Massachusetts based on the number of women who served in the most recent academic year as president, on governing boards or in senior leadership positions. It draws from research commissioned from the UMass Boston Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, a group based on a campus that is led by interim President Katherine Newman.

Simmons College achieved the highest ranking followed by Smith College, Emmanuel College, Wellesley College and Bay Path University. William James College ranked 93rd, tied with Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and Boston College at the bottom of the rankings. New England Conservatory of Music and Lasell College ranked just ahead of those three schools tied at 89, and Tufts University and Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology were both ranked 87th in the state.

Researchers placed 20 percent of the campuses studied into the "needs urgent attention" category — the remainder were categorized as satisfactory, status quo or needs improvement.

In addition to recommending that Massachusetts learn from models in California and New York to achieve greater women and minority representation, the report calls on state government and elected officials to make gender and racial parity a priority at public higher education institutions and for all colleges and universities to elevate more women to serve as chairs and officers on their boards when terms expire.

"The data shows we need thoughtful and concerted action to close the women's power gap," Andrea Silbert, president of the Eos Foundation and a force behind the Women's Power Gap Initiative, said in a statement.

"We believe gathering the data and giving it a platform are important steps toward progress as we discuss concrete steps to bring change," she added.

Provost and dean are "positions which are the most frequent path to the presidency," Silbert said, describing a pipeline for potential campus leaders.

The report, which was the topic of discussion at a State House News forum Thursday morning in Boston, determined that 47 percent of private colleges in the state had women presidents and women were also serving as presidents at six of 15 community colleges, with two more added for the current academic year.

Among the report's other conclusions:

— Massachusetts' public universities have the lowest percentage of women presidents/chancellors of all types of schools, or one out of 15. There were five in 2008.

— Among the state's 17 large universities, both public and private, none has a woman board chair.

— Of the 94 presidents represented in the study, only five are women of color.

— Women serve as board chairs at only five of 25 of the state's public higher education institutions.

According to the report, the American Council on Education estimates that women represent 27 percent of private higher education presidents nationally, and 33 percent of public higher education institution presidents.

Architects of the foundation's Women's Power Gap Study Series plan to also offer baseline gender parity data for other Bay State sectors, including financial services, business associations, venture capital, life sciences and health care. A Massachusetts GenderAvenger Campaign will use social media in an attempt to achieve gender parity at conferences, events, and meetings.

Trending Video

Recommended for you