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Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions at US higher education institutions, holding less than 40% of leadership positions. A notable exception is Washington University in St. Louis, where women make up 89% of Chancellor Andrew D. Martin’s cabinet and 56% of the university’s board of directors.
Martin did not seek to fill his nine-member cabinet almost exclusively with women; he just wanted the best people. To make sure women were in the mix, he looked for leaders with impressive talent, not necessarily impressive titles. Martin has also established family-friendly policies and created a culture that welcomes diverse ideas.
“A lot of social science shows that women will only apply for a job if they meet all the requirements, while men will apply if they meet a few criteria,” said Martin, who assumed the chancellorship in 2019. From a college leadership perspective, you have to ask yourself who you’re missing, which is why I consider it part of my job to proactively find and nurture talented women to take the next step in their careers. It is equally important to develop a strong talent pool that will be ready to serve the next generation of higher education decision makers.
Take, for example, Shantay Bolton, executive vice chancellor for administration and chief administrative officer, who arrived a year ago from Tulane University, where she served as vice president and deputy chief operating officer.
“I didn’t fit the typical profile of a chief administrator,” said Bolton, who has spent much of his career in human resources administration. “Many chief administrators grew up in finance or business operations. But my 18 years in human resources have taught me that it’s not enough to have smart business practices in place. You need to adopt policies and processes that foster university culture, create an atmosphere that encourages collaboration, and keep everyone focused on a common vision. And to do that well, you have to listen to the voice of the collective. Andrew was very open-minded to imagine how a different style of leadership with a different mix of experiences could serve the greater mission of the university.
Other recent hires include Beverly R. Wendland, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, who was dean at Johns Hopkins University, and Anna Gonzalez, vice chancellor for student affairs, who was vice president. for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Harvey. Mudd College. Recent promotions include Amy B. Kweskin, executive vice chancellor for finance and chief financial officer, and Julie Hail Flory, vice chancellor for marketing and communications. Other members of the firm are: Monica J. Allen, Vice Chancellor and General Counsel; Rebecca Brown, Vice Chancellor, Board Secretary and Martin’s Chief of Staff; Pamella A. Henson, executive vice chancellor for academic advancement; and David H. Perlmutter, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
“Andrew is a huge investor in people,” Brown said. “When he sees someone who is up to the task, he helps them grow by giving them increased responsibilities and projects that push them out of their comfort level.”
Brown is one of those people. She met Martin about a decade ago at the University of Washington Law School, where she worked in career services and he served as associate dean. Brown would bring ideas to Martin and he would provide feedback and support. During one of their conversations, Martin told Brown she had what it takes to be chief of staff – a job he later offered Brown when he was named dean of the College of Literature. , Science, and Arts from the University of Michigan.
“He sent me three invitations to apply, which I ignored,” Brown recalled. “Finally he called and said, ‘Are you going to read this or what?’ It helped me see where I fit in this higher education landscape.
Martin has also attracted top talent by establishing family-friendly benefits like extended caregiver leave and practices like limiting email to work hours. Martin first introduced politics to the University of Michigan when he was a new father.
“I asked my staff, ‘What’s the biggest bottleneck in our schedule?’ and the response was email and that feeling that you still have to be ‘active,’” said Martin, who wrote about the rollout in The Chronicle of Higher Education. “This small change had a big impact. Everyone needs time to come home and be off the clock.
The cabinet meets for bi-weekly meetings, though members meet regularly one-on-one to address issues ranging from student mental health to COVID-19 to the academic calendar. As the university’s student affairs officer, Gonzalez welcomes the opportunity to advance the student perspective at these meetings. And as a professional, she appreciates the trust Martin places in the firm’s members to get the job done.
“A lot of leaders will impose a top-down structure, but Andrew really allows us to work across all of our areas to find strategic solutions,” said Gonzalez, who meets with several cabinet members individually. “The result is that we can go faster and be more agile.”
The entire university benefits from the leadership of women cabinet members, Martin said. While gender doesn’t determine leadership style, in general, research shows that women tend to be more collaborative and democratic, a phenomenon Martin observed among cabinet members.
“We’ve all been in meetings where there were a lot of people in the room, protecting their turf,” Martin said. “Our team, on the other hand, works in a highly collaborative and mission-driven way. Respect, trust and transparency are at the center of everything we do, whether we are mobilizing to address student mental health or planning for COVID. Frankly, there is no other way to be an effective team.