The Utah Women and Leadership Project recently released a study that examines the status of women leaders in higher education in the state. They have been following the status of women in higher education since 2014, with research updates in 2017 and now in 2021.
“The research is quite clear that we will do better in an organization, we’ll serve our students better, we’ll serve our community members better when we have men and women in our top positions,” said Susan Madsen, the founding director of The Utah Women and Leadership Project.
Madsen shared that there has been progress made from the last update to the study. This includes that Utah’s State Board of Higher Education is composed of 44% women, which is above the national average of 39.8% and in Utah, 50% of the degree-granting colleges and universities currently have women as presidents.
“If you have just men, versus men and women working together, it changes things and it changes things in higher education,” Madsen said. “For faculty and for staff, but it really changes things for students. So when students see men and women both in leadership roles, that really helps them in many ways. Learn diversity, learn tolerance, then they go out to the workforce, and they go out in the community, they become more inclusive, they become more diverse in their thinking, and really think that it's normal to see men and women both using their voices.”
While noting the improvement, Madsen acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to be done, specifically including representation in Utah’s technical colleges.
“When you look at tech companies, and just technology or STEM areas science, technology, engineering and math, you see across the nation, there's less women,” Madsen said. “But in Utah, there's significantly less women in those roles. So it's kind of a pipeline issue, we need to have more women understand that that's really something that they could be successful in, and then move it up. And you'll have more women in those other roles as well.”