Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism, and Practice

Publication Date

Fall 2002


While much has been written about the status of women within higher education in the faculty ranks and the presidency, there has been little research into the status of women in top administrative ranks. This paper examines gender-based hiring in academia by establishing the actual hiring trends for the top administrative positions in New England colleges and universities over a twelve-year period, 1989–2001. It attempts to understand the impact of Affirmative Action policy and the processes and procedures related to the policy on hiring trends during this period.

Data collected by the New England Association of Colleges and Universities were employed. The total number of institutions surveyed were 256 in 1989 and 240 in 2001. Detailed analyses are presented by kinds of institutions (public, independent; two-year, four-year), locations (six New England states), and across 25 categories of top administrative positions (president, provost, dean, etc.).

A total of 1,110 top administrative positions were reviewed for 1998 and 1,798 for 2001. During this period the number of college presidencies held by women increased from 49 to 66, or 21% to 29%. The number of top administrative positions (excluding presidencies) held by women increased from 222 to 598, or 20% to 33%. These results are further analyzed by sectors, locations and positions, with attention to the institutions which showed the greatest presence of women in top administrative positions.

It is argued that the positive impact that has been felt in the hiring of women to top administrative positions in higher education has to a great extent been in response to the Affirmative Action process and procedures which have been institutionalized. Although one cannot conclude that the Affirmative Action policy alone is responsible for these gains, the impressive results point to the success of the systems which are in place to identify, support and recruit women for these positions.



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