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CMSI Releases New Report Examining the Opportunities and Challenges of Women Presidents at Minority Serving Institutions


Philadelphia, Pa., March 26, 2018— The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) has released a new report that delves into the lack of women leadership within U.S. higher education, particularly Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
The report highlights strategies for effective presidencies while also sharing the opportunities and challenges that women often face while serving as college and university presidents, and especially while serving at MSIs. Despite the ever-changing student population, most college and university presidents have been White, married men. The report reveals that women account for less than 30 percent of all college presidents and less than 12 percent of MSI presidents.
"Women make up almost 50 percent of all college students," said Amanda Washington Lockett, the lead author of the report and research associate at CMSI. "Not only is it imperative that institutional leadership reflects the student body, but that students understand that leadership comes in many forms."
For many women, the path to the presidency was not always a direct path, goal, or aspiration. Many were encouraged into the role by colleagues and/or mentors. Whether or not there is an intentional motive to pursue the presidency, it is important to understand the various challenges that women in the role face. Women aspiring to be college presidents must understand the ways in which gender is situated in the organizational and institutional culture of a college or university, the report explains. The report urges aspiring women presidents to become familiar with their own leadership strengths and styles, and understand the ways in which an institution operates, the campus culture and climate, and the key players at the institution (i.e. students, board of trustees, staff, faculty etc.) prior to taking on the role of president.
The report suggests that aspiring women presidents must also recognize and discern ways to overcome discrimination. Unequal pay remains an issue in the professional workforce, so do hindrances such as imposter syndrome and stereotype threat. These issues can surface and negatively shape a successful presidency. The report also emphasizes the role of mentorship in ensuring encouragement, guidance and a fresh perspective in times of need throughout the presidency.
"There are many barriers that derail aspiring women from securing the presidency; current and past women presidents must bridge the gap by developing intentional mentoring relationships to support the next generation of institutional leaders," says Atiya S. Strothers, one of the authors of the report and Postdoctoral Fellow for Academic Diversity through the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.
The report concludes by offering 29 presidential tips that can be used in the search, selection and appointment process of the presidency. These tips were curated to combat the distinct challenges that deter women leadership.

"Women presidents are not only testaments to the possibility of marginalized people, but have the ability to reshape and restructure the traditional presidency with their distinctive voices,” said Marybeth Gasman, the Judy & Howard Berkowitz Professor of Education and Director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.
Full copies of the report are freely available here.

About the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions 
The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions brings together researchers and practitioners from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions. CMSI’s goals include: elevating the educational contributions of MSIs; ensuring that they are a part of national conversations; bringing awareness to the vital role MSIs play in the nation’s economic development; increasing the rigorous scholarship of MSIs; connecting MSIs’ academic and administrative leadership to promote reform initiatives; and strengthening efforts to close educational achievement gaps among disadvantaged communities. The Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions is part of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. For further information about CMSI, please visit

Monday, March 26, 2018
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