Tracking Gender Disparity Among Academics

The gender gap at Massachusetts institutions.

Fewer women than men hold positions of leadership at large private universities and in the public higher education system, at least in Massachusetts, according to a report published last fall by the Eos Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation that addresses issues of poverty. The report draws from research the organization commissioned from the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. It examines how many women are presidents, senior leaders, and board members at 93 Massachusetts colleges and universities as of June 20, 2018.

Among other findings, the report shows that only 1 in 15 of the presidents and chancellors of Massachusetts’ public universities are women; there are no women board chairs among the Commonwealth’s 17 large universities; and only five of the 93 presidents are women of color.

“While women comprise 57 percent of all college and university students in the state, only 31 percent of the presidents and chancellors of these school are women,” says Andrea Silbert, president of the Eos Foundation. “The data shows we need thoughtful and concerted action to close the women’s power gap.”

The report offers these recommendations to help schools work toward gender equity: Fill immediate vacancies with women, particularly women of color, until parity is achieved; elevate more women to serve as chairs and officers on their boards when the terms of current officers expire; and study models of states such as California and New York, which have achieved better success with minority representation. In addition, the report suggests that Massachusetts legislators should make gender and racial parity at public institutions a top priority, setting diversity goals and holding public boards and college presidents accountable.

The report kicks off the Eos Foundation’s Women’s Power Gap Study Series that will examine gender parity at other sectors in the Massachusetts economy.

For more information about the report, “Women’s Power Gap in Higher Education,” visit