It is striking that still very few of the world’s top universities are led by women.
In fact, analysis of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 reveals that just 34 of the top 200 institutions are currently led by women. This is a decrease from last year, when 36 of the top universities had female leaders.
However, the current number one institution (the University of Oxford) is led by political scientist Louise Richardson, while half the prestigious Ivy League institutions in the US; Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University and Brown University have female leaders.
The US, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK are some of the countries with high numbers of female-led institutions.
Below we take a look at the achievements of the female vice-chancellors of the top 10 universities and the journeys that brought them to where they are now.
1. University of Oxford: Louise Richardson
Louise Richardson has been vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford since January 2016. She was previously principal of the University of St Andrews for seven years – the first woman to occupy this position.
Richardson’s academic focus has been on international security with an emphasis on terrorist movements, and has taught the world-renowned Harvard undergraduate course in terrorist movements in international relations. She has received teaching awards from the American Political Science Association and from Pi Sigma Alpha for outstanding teaching in political science.
2. Harvard University: Drew Faust
Drew Faust is the first woman to serve as the president of Harvard University and the fifth woman to serve as president of an Ivy League Institution. During a press conference on campus, when she took up the role, she said that she hoped that her appointment could be a symbol of opening opportunities that would have been inconceivable even a generation ago. She continued by saying ”I’m not the woman president of Harvard, I’m the president of Harvard”.
One of her first initiatives as president was to significantly increase financial aid for students at the college. She has also worked to increase funding for scientific research and to revitalise arts programmes.
3. Imperial College London: Alice Gast
In 2008, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers named Gast one of the top 100 “Modern Era” engineers in the USA in the “Leadership” category.
4. University of Pennsylvania: Amy Gutmann
Amy Gutmann has been president of the University of Pennsylvania since 2004. In 2016 it was announced that her contract will continue until 2022, which will make her the longest-serving president in the institution’s history.
She is an award-winning political theorist and the author of 16 books on politics, ethics, education and philosophy. Gutmann’s presidency centres around three core values; inclusion, innovation and impact. As part of adhering to these values, Gutmann has more than doubled the number of students from low-income, middle-income, and first-generation college families attending Penn, and opened the Penn Center for Innovation in 2014.
5. University of California, Berkeley: Carol Christ
Carol Christ is the first female chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, replacing Nicholas B. Dirks in July 2017. She was previously the executive vice-chancellor and provost of Berkeley between 1994 and 2000. She then became president of liberal arts institution Smith College, for more than a decade, before returning to Berkeley. She is a celebrated scholar of Victorian literature.
Since taking on the presidency role at Berkeley, she has worked to target sexual violence and sexual harassment on campus and create a long-term plan for housing students.
6. Cornell University: Martha E. Pollack
Her research specialty is artificial intelligence, to which she has contributed work in planning, natural language processing and activity recognition for cognitive assistance.
While at the University of Michigan, Pollack received the Goddard Power Award for her efforts in increasing the representation of and supporting women and underrepresented minorities in science and engineering.
7. London School of Economics and Political Science: Minouche Shafik
An economist by background, Minouche Shafik has held a number of positions in international organisations and in government, including the World Bank and the Department for International Development in the British government. She has also held academic appointments at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University.
She took up her current position as director of the London School of Economics and Political Science in September 2017. She was also named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2015.
8. University of Washington: Ana Mari Cauce
Ana Mari Cauce is the University of Washington’s first permanent woman president and the first Latina president.
She has been a member of the University of Washington faculty since 1986, became the interim president in March 2015 and was selected to become president in October 2015.
Cauce remains active in the classroom and continues to teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students. She helped to found the university’s Husky Promise, which guarantees full tuition to eligible Washington students who would be unable to attend college otherwise. She also launched the Race and Equity Initiative in 2015 to encourage staff and students to take personal responsibility to combat racism and inequity.
9. McGill University: Suzanne Fortier
Suzanne Fortier has served as the principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University since 2013. Her research work focuses on crystallography and artificial intelligence and she has held positions at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and at Queen's University in Canada.
She has received many awards for her contributions to science including the 1997 Clara Benson award for distinguished contributions to chemistry by a woman, and the Queen's University Distinguished Service Award in 2005.
10. University of Wisconsin-Madison: Rebecca Blank
Prior to taking on the role of chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rebecca Blank was acting deputy secretary of commerce, deputy secretary of commerce and acting secretary of commerce under the Obama administration.
She was also the dean and professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan and a member of faculty at Northwestern and Princeton universities.
Blank is the author of numerous books on economics, government social policy programmes and the behaviour and well-being of low-income families.
Top universities led by women in the THE top 200
|Rank||THE World University Rank 2018||University||Country||Vice-chancellor|
|1||1||University of Oxford||United Kingdom||Louise Richardson|
|2||6||Harvard University||United States||Drew Faust|
|3||8||Imperial College London||United Kingdom||Alice Gast|
|4||=10||University of Pennsylvania||United States||Amy Gutmann|
|5||18||University of California, Berkeley||United States||Carol Christ|
|6||19||Cornell University||United States||Martha E. Pollack|
|7||=25||London School of Economics and Political Science||United Kingdom||Minouche Shafik|
|8||=25||University of Washington||United States||Ana Mari Cauce|
|9||42||McGill University||Canada||Suzanne Fortier|
|10||43||University of Wisconsin-Madison||United States||Rebecca Blank|
|11||=50||Brown University||United States||Christina Paxson|
|12||=54||University of Manchester||United Kingdom||Nancy Rothwell|
|13||=56||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||United States||Carol Folt|
|14||59||University of Amsterdam||Netherlands||Geert ten Dam|
|15||62||Humboldt University of Berlin||Germany||Sabine Kunst|
|16||64||Wageningen University & Research||Netherlands||Louise Fresco|
|17||=80||Monash University||Australia||Margaret Gardner|
|18||=86||Uppsala University||Sweden||Eva Akesson|
|19||=95||University of Basel||Switzerland||Andrea Schenker-Wicki|
|20||98||Emory University||United States||Claire Sterk|
|21||=111||University of Western Australia||Australia||Dawn Freshwater|
|22||=113||University of Göttingen||Germany||Ulrike Beisiegel|
|23||=113||University of Virginia||United States||Teresa Sullivan|
|24||=134||Stockholm University||Sweden||Astrid Söderbergh Widding|
|25||=143||University of St Andrews||United Kingdom||Sally Mapstone|
|26||=147||Autonomous University of Barcelona||Spain||Margarita Arboix|
|27||=147||University of Nottingham||United Kingdom||Shearer West|
|28||152||University of Lausanne||Switzerland||Nouria Hernandez|
|29||158||Case Western Reserve University||United States||Barbara Snyder|
|30||=165||Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam||Netherlands||Mirjam van Praag|
|31||=173||KTH Royal Institute of Technology||Sweden||Sigbritt Karlsson|
|32||=177||University of Liverpool||United Kingdom||Janet Beer|
|33||181||Paris-Sud University||France||Sylvie Retailleau|
|34||=198||University of Gothenburg||Sweden||Eva Wiberg|
Note: The analysis was based on the university leader in post on 1 March 2018. It included 199 universities, because two French universities (Pierre and Marie Curie University and Paris-Sorbonne University – Paris 4) have merged since the ranking was released.