Utah Women & Leadership Project finds limited progress on women in educational leadership

University Marketing & Communications: Layton Shumway | 801-863-6863 | LShumway@uvu.edu

Written by: Barbara Christiansen | 801-863-8208 | BarbaraC@uvu.edu

The Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah Valley University has seen progress in female representation in several levels of educational leadership during the past three years. In many categories, however, the state is still below national averages.

Researchers found an increase in the number of women leaders in that time period when they analyzed the Utah State Board of Education members and leadership, school districts’ boards of education, principals and assistant principals in of various levels of schools.

“Although Utah is still not on par with the national percentages, in most areas progress has been made,” says a snapshot released by the project. “Ensuring that women are well represented as educational leaders will be imperative to meet the impending challenges before Utahns today. New pathways to better decision making have been forged through women’s diverse leadership styles and focus on inclusiveness and cooperation.”

In higher education, the group studied positions including board of regents, presidents, boards of trustees, chief academic officers and vice presidents, president’s cabinets, and academic deans. Eight public colleges and universities were included, along with Brigham Young University and Westminster College.

The percentage of females in boards of regents in Utah has remained unchanged since 2014. The state ranks 23rd, at 31.6 percent, slightly below the national average.

Two of eight public institutions in Utah have female presidents, which is an increase from one of eight (12.5 percent) in 2014. Neither private institution has a female president. Nationally, 30 percent of institutions have a female president.

Utah is above the national average for the percentage of women on boards of trustees. That figure has increased from 29.8 percent in 2014 to 38.3 percent. However, there has been a decrease of women vice presidents and chief academic officers since 2014, which places it below the national average.

Nationally, 42 percent of those on presidential cabinets are female. In Utah it is approximately 27 percent, which has increased from 23 percent in 2014. The percentage of female deans in the nation increased from 33 percent to 40 percent over three years. In Utah’s public institutions however, the figure decreased from 30.8 percent to 22.9 percent, with 31.6 percent female in private institutions.

“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 us all,” according to a White House Project study. “Women in senior faculty positions and top-level leadership positions in academia provide male students, faculty and staff an important opportunity to work with talented women — an experience that will prove increasingly valuable.” The women also serve as role models and mentors to other women, bringing out the best of women in this generation and others to come, it says.

The numbers also moved slightly in public education, kindergarten through 12th grade.

“During the last three years, female representation on the Utah State Board of Education, school districts’ board of education, leadership within the USBE, district level staff directors, high school assistant principals, middle/junior high principals and assistant principals, and elementary school principals has slightly increased,” the snapshot says. “Although Utah is still not on par with the national percentages, in most areas progress has been made.”

The snapshot identified the challenges facing the nation and state.

“It is critical that Utah leaders and residents encourage and prepare all talented individuals — men and women — to take up this challenge by stepping forward to become leaders within the state’s education system and schools,” it says.

Fourth region (Section 1)