July 06, 2015

New state network to advance women leaders in higher education launched at UAB

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ACE womenFrom left: Lisa Schwiebert, Shilpa Register, Wendy Gunther-Canada and Janelle ChiaseraA group of women at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is paying it forward with the creation of a state network committed to developing and advancing women leaders in higher education.

The new Alabama Network for Women Leaders in Higher Education is under the aegis of the American Council on Education and is part of the ACE Women’s Network, a national system of state networks focused on identifying, developing, encouraging, advancing, linking and supporting women in higher education. Together, these state networks benefit as many as 10,000 women a year, through statewide and regional network programming and opportunities.

The group officially launched in mid-May with the goal to help other Alabama women grow and develop. Plans are in the works for a session at UAB on Oct. 8.

Research data supports the need for networks focused on the development and advancement of women leaders because, while public perception is that people are overwhelmingly comfortable with women as leaders, only 26 percent of all college and university presidents are women, says founding member Janelle M. Chiasera, Ph.D., professor in the School of Health Professions and chair of the Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences.

“This issue is not unique to higher education; this is a common finding across all sectors, including business, film and television, journalism, law, the military, nonprofits, politics, religion, and sports,” Chiasera said.

The network’s additional founding members are:

Chiasera, Register, Synco, Gunther-Canada and Schwiebert are on the network’s board of directors. Most of the founding members are graduates of the UAB Executive Development program, which focuses on developing executive leaders in higher education. 

Established in 1977, the ACE Women’s Network is a state-based system of interlocking networks supported by campus presidents and designed to identify and support women’s leadership development in each state.

In its 2009 Benchmarking Women’s Leadership report, The White House Project recommended a critical mass of one-third or more women in leadership positions, claiming that this is essential for implementing and maintaining the changes recommended. In the 2013 report, women in leadership roles across 14 sectors were studied. This new study revealed that, across the 14 sectors, on average women held under 20 percent of leadership positions and earned just 78 percent of what their male counterparts earned. In academia, women represent only 29 percent of tenure-track positions at doctoral institutions, but outperform men, 56 percent to 44 percent, in national research awards and grants.

UAB President Ray L. Watts is a presidential sponsor of the group, as are Tony Waldrop, Ph.D., president of the University of South Alabama, and Vicky Hawsey Karolewics, Ed.D., president of Wallace State Community College. The group has also reached out to individuals at schools across the state to serve as institutional representatives. Michelle Behr, Ph.D., provost of Birmingham Southern, is the group’s first institutional representative.                       

Established in 1977, the ACE Women’s Network is a state-based system of interlocking networks supported by campus presidents and designed to identify and support women’s leadership development in each state.

Founded in 1918, the American Council on Education is the nation’s largest higher-education organization and represents the interests of more than 1,600 campus executives and 200 leaders of higher-education-related associations and organizations. Together, ACE member institutions serve 80 percent of today’s college students. In its role as the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher-education institutions, ACE provides leadership on key higher-education issues and influences public policy through advocacy, research and program initiatives.

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