One-fifth of the world’s top universities led by women

Number of female vice-chancellors at high-ranking institutions has reached new milestone based on THE World University Rankings data 

March 5, 2021
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View the full list of the top universities led by women

The share of the world’s top universities that are led by women has reached 20 per cent for the first time, according to an analysis of Times Higher Education World University Rankings data.

Forty-one – or 20 per cent – of the top 200 universities in the latest 2021 ranking have a female leader, up from 39 (19 per cent) last year and 34 (17 per cent) in 2018. The 2021 and 2020 rankings both included 202 institutions in the top 200 because several universities at the bottom of the band received joint scores.

The US has seen the biggest decline in terms of the number of universities led by women, with just 10 of its 59 top-200 representatives (17 per cent) having a female leader in 2021 (down from 13 out of 60 last year). However, Germany counteracted that loss; four of its 21 universities (19 per cent) are now led by women, up from just one out of its 23 representatives in 2020.

Finland, New Zealand and South Africa each have just one university in the top 200 but all three are led by women, meaning they top the list of countries with the highest proportion of female leaders. They are followed by Sweden and France, where two out of five institutions (40 per cent) are led by women in each case.

The Netherlands, Italy, UK, Switzerland and Australia all also outperform the global average in terms of their share of female-led top universities, according to the analysis, which was conducted ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Despite the US’ decline this year, it is still home to the highest number of female presidents in the top 200 list, but the UK is fast catching up. Nine of the UK’s 29 representatives are now led by women (up from seven out of 28 last year), narrowing the gap between the number of female leaders in the two countries from six to one.

Of the 27 countries that feature in the top 200, 14 have no female university leaders in that group.

Top 10 universities led by women

THE World University Rank 2021  University Country University leader
 1  University of Oxford United Kingdom Louise Richardson
 7  University of California, Berkeley United States Carol Christ
 11  Imperial College London United Kingdom Alice Gast
 13  University of Pennsylvania United States Amy Gutmann
 19  Cornell University United States Martha Pollack
 27  London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom Minouche Shafik
 29  University of Washington United States Ana Mari Cauce
 35  King’s College London United Kingdom Evelyn Welch (interim)
 40  McGill University Canada Suzanne Fortier
 49  University of Wisconsin-Madison United States Rebecca Blank

Note: The analysis was based on the university leader in post on 8 February 2021.

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Reader's comments (4)

Not sure how Italy can 'outperform the global average', when to my knowledge, there are only 3 female university leaders out of 80!
The analysis is just focused on the top 200 universities in the world.
Est-ce possible d'obtenir un portrait du nombre de dirigeantes femmes dans les universités canadiennes ?
There are 8 Canadian universities in the top 200 and just one has a female leader (the one included in the table)