Role of Women in Higher Education Leadership

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, of which both my alma maters are a part, has announced big news in September 2014. They have hired a new president, Shirley Hoogstra, as their seventh president.

The CCCU is one of the largest voices for Christian Higher Education. While working in the president’s office at Sterling College, I had the privileged to work with fellow CCCU members, as well as have limited, though telling, interaction with three of the former presidents of the CCCU. I am so glad that the CCCU has made a pivotal step in strengthening the role of women in higher education leadership. While Sterling College only has one female vice president serving in the president’s cabinet, and has never had a female president of the institution, I am hopeful that soon female leadership will grow. In 2012, they took a great step by selecting the first female chair of the board of trustees.

In order for higher education to provide an accurate portrayal of humanity and for Christian higher education to support the role of women, I believe that we must have a gendered balance in leadership. Sadly, we still have inequality in leadership positions. For example, consider this 2011 article on the lack of women in Christian higher education.

I want women to have a seat at the table and share their perspectives. Ruth Moon stated in her Christian Post article, “Women represent, on average, 23 percent of paid evangelical leaders, 21 percent of boards, and 16 percent of top leaders. This lags the broader nonprofit world, where women comprise 43 percent of boards and 40 percent of CEOs.” Of the 175 CCCU institutions, only nine have female presidents. That is ONLY 5 %!  This is a substantially low number compared to the rest of the evangelical leaders. Christian higher education seems to be falling further and further behind the country as it slowly creeps closer towards the gender equality.

Think of your own place of employment, or even your church. Take a look at your board of directors, leadership team, or executive cabinet. Would you consider there is a balance of gender? Are those who make decisions for the institutions fully representative of those they serve? If not, I would encourage you to speak with the leadership teams. As them to consider if they have been neglecting the role of women, not only in their workplace, but also in their decision making. Challenge them to purposefully and prayerfully evaluate the current practices and see how they can be an industry leader in balancing out century long practices of neglect.

I am glad the CCCU has finally taken the time to bring in a highly qualified female to lead Christian higher education further into this new century. Maybe more organizations will follow suit.

Lead on, President Hoogstra.

Note: This article was set to publish in September. For some reason it didn’t and so here it is, many months later!