Opinion: ASU needs an increase in visible female leadership

Students need to see themselves represented in leadership to pursue similar roles

In light of societal movements focusing on marginalized groups, there's never been more talk about gender equity, but without female leaders, equity isn't possible.

At ASU, recognizing and increasing female leadership is the first step in encouraging better representation of the student body as well as paving the way for more diversity in leadership in the future.

Unfortunately, of the 20 ASU deans, only five of them are women, and the gender pay gap exists even within ASU leadership. 

This wage gap is partly a result of a lack of women in leadership, but the existence of the wage gap also discourages women from pursuing these roles to begin with. At ASU, an overwhelming majority of the University's highest paid employees are men. 

The University's lack of female leadership reflects a larger societal problem. Many major institutions and companies don't have leadership which reflects its students or employees. Pushing for a diverse leadership at the University, in race, religion, orientation and gender is crucial for equitable representation. 

Some schools at ASU are starting to address the problems women face in the workplace. 

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is currently hosting a speaker series to highlight issues women in the media encounter as they progress through their careers. 

Kristin Gilger, an associate dean at the Cronkite school, said the series helps women prepare for future challenges in the journalism workforce. 

“We need to help women navigate their careers and get ready to navigate their careers," Gilger said. "And I think we do that … But we haven’t — until the #MeToo movement came up — really said, ‘You know what? We need to actually talk specifically about this issue.’ And that again is a big reason we did this women’s series.”

Addressing these issues is a great first step to creating a more welcoming workplace for women and preparing them for the issues they may face in the future as they begin their careers.

While the University needs improvement, Gilger said she thinks ASU values diversity and equity among its faculty. 

“I think diversity is a value for ASU as a whole across the University,” Gilger said. “It’s something that people realize and understand the value of women in leadership positions and women in equitable pay, women in equitable jobs like faculty, for example."

Some career fields have higher gender equity than others, and with some industries being more  proportionately male, it is difficult to break the cycle and begin to introduce diversity. Changing this starts with creating more diverse leadership. 

“Some programs have a harder time than others,” Gilger said. “Engineering would be difficult, because of the history of who goes into that field and how women were discouraged for a long time from going into the hard sciences and fields like engineering. So there’s a history to combat there.”

Recognizing the first accomplishments of individuals in historically marginalized groups is also important, because even if they are not the first to accomplish something, they are breaking the historical trends of oppression, which is revolutionary in and of itself. 

Representing the ASU student body more accurately in leadership provides more students the positive encouragement and support system they need to break out of the cycle of the predetermination of careers and seek leadership roles which they never had before. 

“If women or minorities or any group does not see themselves reflected in leadership … It’s a powerful discouragement for women who might otherwise aspire to those kinds of positions, to the point where you might not even think about trying to do it. What models do you have of success? You need to see people like yourself succeeding and leading to believe that we can do it. I think that’s really powerful.”

According to the United States Agency for International Development, only 18.9 percent of the world’s legislators are women, while countries in which women comprise over 30 percent of the seats in political bodies are more egalitarian.

“If you can learn from women who are leading and have been through those experiences and have kind of figured out how to manage things, how to succeed, that can be very helpful to the next generation," Gilger said. "And I do think that women and minorities in leadership positions most of the time bring along and open doors for other women and minorities.”

The University has been making strides to create a more welcoming workplace for women and to encourage them to pursue leadership. But recognizing female leadership requires a much larger effort. 

“I think that progress could always happen quicker, and it really takes more than just embracing the value,” Gilger said. “It takes a concerted effort. It takes change in policies and procedures and recruitment … From who you’re bringing in for speakers to who’s on search committees to who you’re interviewing. You just have to think about it in every single thing you do to really make it happen.”


Reach the columnist at kalbal@asu.edu or follow @KarishmaAlbal on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.