Michigan Engineering News

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Op-ed: How Michigan Engineering increased the number of women in college leadership

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Alec Gallimore outlines the long–and short–term strategies.

Often when I tell people that we have filled half of the top leadership positions at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering with women, I can almost see the unspoken assumption in many of their eyes: They think we did it by passing over better-qualified male candidates.

At the 10 U.S. engineering schools with the largest research budgets, women make up about 17 percent of the faculty. It’s always noticed when women make up a higher-than-usual proportion of an engineering college’s leadership, but somehow, we don’t make the same assumptions about talent when all of a school’s top positions are filled by men.

In our case, the numerical skew toward hiring women comes from expecting more — not less — of our top administrators. Being an accomplished engineer is still a requirement, but it is no longer sufficient. Our leaders also need to be able to see and articulate biases in the organization and propose ways to counter them. It turned out that the women who were hired as leaders in our latest round performed better on those measures.

(W)ith outstanding female engineers leading the college, I am optimistic that we can accelerate the cultural shift that will help make engineering genuinely welcoming to women.

Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering

Here, I share four key approaches we followed to build that pool — with the hope that other leaders of male-dominated fields in science, engineering, and medicine may adopt these tactics and see similar success.

Read the op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education.