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International Women’s Day: top universities led by women

Only 43 of the top 200 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings are run by women

March 3 2022
Top 10 universities run by women


​It is striking that still only a few of the world’s top universities are led by women. 

In fact, analysis of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022 reveals that just 43 of the top 200 institutions are currently led by women. What is promising is that this is an increase from the 41 universities led by women last year and now amounts to a fifth of the top 200 universities in the world. 

The current number one institution (the University of Oxford) is led by political scientist Louise Richardson, while three of the prestigious Ivy League institutions in the US, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University and Brown University, have female leaders.

The US, France, Netherlands 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 terrorism, 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. 

Richardson will be leaving her position at the University of Oxford in December 2022 and will take up the position of president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York in January 2023. 

Professor Louise Richardson - Top 10 universities run by women.

2. University of California, Berkeley, Carol Christ

Carol Christ is the first female chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, having replaced 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 presidential role at Berkeley, she has worked to target sexual violence and sexual harassment on campus and to create a long-term housing plan for students. 

Carol Christ - Top 10 universities led by women

3. Imperial College London, Alice Gast

Alice Gast is originally from Houston, Texas, and completed her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Southern California and her postgraduate degree at Princeton University

She was named president of Imperial College London in 2014 and has led the university for the past seven years. Prior to this she was the president of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. 

In 2008, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers named Gast one of the top 100 “Modern Era” engineers in the US in the “Leadership” category. 

Hugh Brady, the vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol, will be taking over the position from August 2022. 

Alice Gast - Top 10 universities run by women

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. 

Gutmann will leave this position in July 2022 and Mary Elizabeth Magill, the current provost of the University of Virginia will step into the role. 

Amy Gutmann - Top 10 universities led by women

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5. Cornell University, Martha E. Pollack 

Previously provost of the University of Michigan, Martha E. Pollack was inaugurated as the 14th president of Cornell University in 2017.  

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 support for women and under-represented minorities in science and engineering.

Martha Pollack - Top 10 universities led by women

6. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Mary Sue Coleman

Mary Sue Coleman is serving as the interim president of the University of Michigan, while the university board searches for a permanent president. 

Coleman was the university’s first female president, taking the position from 2002 until her retirement in 2014, making her the fourth-longest running president in the university’s history. 

Coleman received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Grinnell College. She then went on to achieve her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina, moving on to work as the director of a cancer research centre at the University of Kentucky for 20 years before serving as president of the University of Iowa

Mary Sue Coleman

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 UK’s Department for International Development. She has also held academic appointments at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania and at 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.

Minouche Shafik - Top 10 universities led by women

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's academic area is psychology having completed an MSc in psychology and in 1982 a master of philosophy from Yale University. She then earned a PhD doctorate from Yale University in psychology, with a concentration in child clinical and community psychology. 

Cauce remains active in the classroom and continues to teach and mentor undergraduate and graduate students. She helped 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 inequality.

Ana Marie Cauce - top 10 universities run by women

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 contribution to science, including the 1997 Clara Benson award for distinguished contribution to chemistry by a woman, and the Queen’s University Distinguished Service Award in 2005.

Fortier will be retiring from this position in August 2022. 

Suzanne Fortier - top 10 universities led by women

10. University of Manchester, Nancy Rothwell

Nancy Rothwell has been the president of the University of Manchester since July 2010, becoming the first female president of the university. 

Her ongoing research in the field of neuroscience has contributed towards major advances in the understanding and treatment of brain damage in stroke and head injury.

She is an honorary member of the British Society for Immunology and has been a member of The Physiological Society since 1982 and was awarded the Physiological Society Annual Review Prize Lecture in 1998. She has been the chair of the The Russell Group, a group of 24 universities in the UK, since September 2020.

Nancy Rothwell

Top universities led by women in the THE World University Rankings top 200

Order  Rank  University Country Vice-chancellor
1 1 University of Oxford United Kingdom Louise Richardson
2 8 University of California, Berkeley United States Carol Christ
3 12 Imperial College London United Kingdom Alice Gast
4 =13 University of Pennsylvania United States Amy Gutmann
5 22 Cornell University United States Martha Pollack
6 =24 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor United States Mary Sue Coleman
7 27 London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom Minouche Shafik
8 29 University of Washington United States Ana Mari Cauce
9 44 McGill University Canada Suzanne Fortier
10 50 University of Manchester United Kingdom Nancy Rothwell
11 53 Wageningen University & Research Netherlands Louise Fresco
12 =54 The University of Queensland Australia Deborah Terry
13 57 Monash University Australia Margaret Gardner
14 =58 University of Wisconsin-Madison United States Rebecca Blank
15 63 University of Southern California United States Carol Folt
16 64 Brown University United States Christina Paxson
17 65 University of Amsterdam Netherlands Geert ten Dam
18 71 Leiden University Netherlands Annetje Ottow
19 85 Ohio State University (Main campus) United States Kristina Johnson
20 =86 University of Minnesota United States Joan Gabel
21 =88 Sorbonne University France Nathalie Drach Temam
22 =101 University of Helsinki Finland Sari Lindblom
23 103 University of Basel Switzerland Andrea Schenker-Wicki
24 =108 University of Freiburg Germany Kerstin Krieglstein
25 =117 Université Paris-Saclay France Sylvie Retailleau
26 =127 University of Leeds United Kingdom Simone Buitendijk
27 =127 Maastricht University Netherlands Rianne Letschert
28 =137 University of Auckland New Zealand Dawn Freshwater
29 141 University of Nottingham United Kingdom Shearer West
30 142 University of Rochester United States Sarah Mangelsdorf
31 =143 University of Exeter United Kingdom Lisa Roberts
32 =146 Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland Linda Doyle
33 155 Université de Paris France Christine Clerici
34 =162 Durham University United Kingdom Karen O'Brien
35 167 Indiana University United States Pamela Whitten
36 =172 TU Dresden Germany Ursula Staudinger
37 =176 Stockholm University Sweden Astrid Söderbergh Widding
38 =178 University of Liverpool United Kingdom Janet Beer
39 =183 University of Cape Town South Africa Mamokgethi Phakeng
40 =185 University of Gothenburg Sweden Eva Wiburg
41 =193 Queensland University of Technology Australia Margaret Sheil
42 =193 Texas A&M University United States M. Katherine Banks
43 =197 Sapienza University of Rome Italy Antonella Polimeni

Note: The analysis was based on the university leader in post on 1 February 2022.

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