As women are making a name for themselves in the business, journalism, and political worlds, female college presidents have already broken gender barriers within university leadership roles all over the country. Some of those walls have been up for hundreds of years. Here are six university leaders who nail the combination of girl power and commander-in-chief.
Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania
In 2004, Amy Gutmann left her position as president of Princeton University to become the eighth president of the University of Pennsylvania. She credits her strong sense of leadership to her father, who fled Germany during World War II and eventually settled in the United States. Since becoming the leader at U Penn, she has raised almost $4.3 billion for the school in six years and has seen a 23% growth in research funding.
Gwendolyn Boyd, Alabama State University
Gwendolyn Boyd returned to her alma mater in January 2014, when she was unanimously appointed President of Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. She is the first female president of the university and the first African-American woman to receive a master’s in mechanical engineering from Yale. In addition, she was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African-Americans in 2014.
Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard University
In 2007, Drew Gilpin Faust became the first female President of Harvard University, which was founded in 1636. A self-proclaimed rebel throughout her youth, Gilpin Faust is a historian of the Civil War and the American South and has written six books on the topics, one of which became the basis for a PBS documentary. During her tenure at Harvard, Gilpin Faust has led many initiatives, including a partnership with MIT on an online learning program called “edX”.
Christina Paxson, Brown University
When Christina Paxson didn’t get into one Ivy League school, she became the President of another. In July 2012 she was appointed as the President of Brown University. During her four years in office so far, Brown has opened a new School of Public Health and the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. Paxon even participated in the 2014 viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge after being challenged by the President of MIT.
Lou Anna K. Simon, Michigan State University
Lou Anna K. Simon was the first in her family to go to college, and once she went, she never left. The President of Michigan State University received her undergraduate degree from the university in math and started her post-graduate career there in 1974. Since becoming president in 2005, Simon has asked eight years not to be given a raise. In addition to her role at the university, she also serves on the board of directors for the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Jo Ann Rooney, Loyola University Chicago
When she was appointed the president of Loyola University Chicago in May 2016, Jo Ann Rooney was the first female, non-ordained person to assume the position, after 24 male presidents who were members of the Society of Jesus. While her presidency is still in the very early stages, in 2006 she was named the “Most Admired Woman in Education” by Today’s Woman magazine, and in 2011 the Obama Administration appointed her to serve in the U.S. Department of Defense.
So while we might see a female president soon, many women are already successful within their roles at schools near and far. Nothing says, “you can be a female leader” quite like a list of ladies who excel at the role.