CUPA-HR Survey: Underrepresentation of Women and Minorities in College Presidencies Persists

Data in the “2020 CUPA-HR Administrators in Higher Education Report” shows that underrepresentation of women and minorities in college and university presidencies persists.

While colleges and universities embrace the concept of diversity and equity, the numbers are still falling short. The report noted that just 32% of college or university presidents are women and only 14% of presidents are racial/ethnic minorities.

To compile the survey, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) collected data on 50,690 administrators in 202 senior-level administrative positions from 1,160 institutions of higher education. Data collected included salary, gender, race/ethnicity, age and years in position. The data collection period ran from Nov. 1, 2019 to Jan. 17, 2020. This year, CUPA-HR collected data on the pipeline for three positions: president, provost and chief human resources officer.

Dr. Jacqueline BichselDr. Jacqueline Bichsel

Among current presidents, the most commonly held positions prior to the presidency were president and provost. Most had previously worked at an institution of higher education and nearly a third were promoted internally. Less than 10% came from outside of higher education.

“The presidential pipeline, what I found most interesting … is that these are sort of lines of succession in higher ed institutions,” Dr. Jacqueline Bichsel, CUPA-HR director of research told Diverse. “Provost is considered an executive position and deans pretty close to that. Deans feed regularly into that provost position and provosts feed regularly into that president position.

“Who becomes dean is largely dependent on a faculty member who has risen in the ranks,” she continued. “When you’re talking about this entire line of succession, what you get down in the hierarchy is which faculty are promoted.”

In CUPA-HR’s faculty report published a few weeks ago, Bichsel said that, when it comes to faculty members being promoted, you see fewer women and minorities being promoted at each stage — assistant to associate professor and associate to full professor — compared to White males. In addition, they get paid less at each stage, particularly women of color.

“Over a lifetime, because they’re promoted less in terms of faculty and fewer of them make it to full professor, they’re going to be less likely to make it to a dean’s position, less likely to make to the provost position and less likely to make it to the president’s position,” said Bichsel. “This is the way I’m viewing it as a hierarchy at this point and will continue to do further analysis on that issue.

“People take advantage of the opportunities that are provided to them. It just is the case that women and minorities, particularly women of color, are not provided those opportunities as often as those are provided to White men.”

Another finding in the report is that salaries for administrators vary greatly depending on the institutional classification — associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral, special focus/other or system office. Administrators at doctoral institutions generally have higher salaries than those at other institutional types. There has been some improvement in minority representation.

Women are paid less than men in nearly all administrative positions. The gender salary gap is pervasive and highest among older individuals.

A recent report from the American Council on Higher Education (ACE), “Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education,” presented an overview of college and university presidents in the 1986–2016 period. In 1986, 91.9% of all presidents were White. As of 2016, that number declined to 83.2%; however, still fewer than one in five presidents identified as a person of color. Associate degree institutions (as defined by Carnegie classification) were the most likely to have a president from a minority background.

In 2016, women represented 30.1% of all college and university presidents. Men of color represented 12% and women of color represented only 5%.

Bichsel said CUPA-HR reports are primarily produced for leadership in higher education, which is why the administrators report garners so much attention. She has found that many people in higher education are not aware of the richness of the data available. One of her goals is to make the reports more complete and show in-depth analyses.

“We want people to use this data as a resource,” said Bichsel. “We want people to use this data in their decision-making. If one of the goals of a higher ed institution is to promote equity and diversity, then they should be benchmarking themselves against other institutions. We provide that benchmarking data. … The reports also provide people with a trend analysis over time.

“We would hope that higher ed leadership would provide more resources in order to increase diversity and inclusion,” she added.