After 371 years, it was about time. We’re sure that was the feeling in Cambridge, Mass., Sunday as Harvard did something it had never done in its history – name a woman as its president.
Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian and dean of the school’s prestigious Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study became Harvard’s 28th president. Faust, who has ties in our area (she studied on the Main Line at Bryn Mawr College for undergrad and attended the University of Pennsylvania as a graduate student), will join our own Dr. Ann Weaver Hart, Penn’s Dr. Amy Gutmann, University of Michigan’s Mary Sue Coleman, Brown University’s Ruth J. Simmons, Spelman College’s Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum and Bryn Mawr College’s Nancy J. Vickers as women who are leading some of America’s institutions of higher education.
In our society, when we speak of diversity, the most obvious example that surfaces is that of the racial kind. The milestone that many around the United States and Harvard are celebrating may not be a hot-button topic for talking heads, but gender diversity is one that this country and much of the world is still striving to achieve.
According to data compiled by the American College President Study Series in 2002, the typical American college president was a married white male, 57 years old and held a doctorate degree.
Here at Temple, Harvard’s move makes us proud because we too can share in this breakthrough. Closing in on seven months ago, we celebrated the same achievement in the naming of Dr. Ann Weaver Hart as this university’s first woman leader.
Do women make better university presidents than men? Maybe, according to a study done by three educators: James L. Fisher, James V. Koch and Alice R. McAdory. They found that “female college presidents are more innovative and entrepreneurial than male presidents. Further, females are more inclined to take measured risks in their jobs than are males,” after surveying more than 600 U.S. colleges.
We say that a person’s gender has no legitimate effect on his or her ability to lead; yet we realize that in the prejudiced society we live in, the former is in fact an ideal. It won’t be long before critics begin comparing Faust to her male counterparts.
But before we indulge in comments from the peanut gallery, let’s take the time to revel in the fact that on the road to gender equality in America, we can add one in the W column.