Fanshawe among Canadian colleges headed on the right path for female leadership

When it comes to the differences between colleges and universities, female leadership is another factor to add to the discussion.

According to a recent article published by Maclean’s Magazine, 38 of 127 member colleges of Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) have a woman in an executive position, versus 19 of Universities Canada’s 97 member institutes. That makes for a 30 to 20 per cent contrast.

These stats came as no surprise to Liz Gray, a full-time faculty member of the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business whose years of professional expertise in digital marketing led to the development of Fanshawe’s courses in search engine marketing and google analytics.

“Fanshawe is an equal opportunity employer with lots of women in very senior leadership positions here who are great role models for all women in the college. I just don’t think we have a culture that would ever suppress women in any way,” Gray said.

Universities typically operate on a centuries-old tradition of higher learning that requires time and financial resources accessible to a select pool of candidates. Hundreds of years ago, university was a reality exclusive only to rich, white men.

Presidency at a university mandates a PhD, making it difficult for anyone outside the academic sphere to pursue an executive position.

Although the proportion of women gaining PhD’s in Canada has drastically increased since the ‘90s, Statistics Canada reported that as of 2011 roughly 47 per cent of those degrees are being earned by women aged 25 to 64.

Conversely, colleges have been built on a relatively new structure over the past 50 years that delivers hands-on training and alternate teaching methods to a broader spectrum of students in the community. Its key purpose is to prepare students for employment, which means college instructors come from a wide range of fields outside academia. Entry into a college faculty tends to be based on skill, knowledge and experience, regardless of the level of post-secondary education – or gender.

“There are female leadership roles being filled in colleges and that makes me proud,” Jackie Westelaken, co-ordinator of the public relations and corporate communications program at Fanshawe said. “I think Fanshawe is interviewing and choosing the best candidates.”

The ratio of female leadership in colleges over universities is positive, but also indicative of how much farther post-secondary institutions need to go before reaching overall gender equality and gaining a better understanding of the root causes behind the current disparity.

Denise Amyot, the first president and CEO of CICan, is enthusiastic for the future of college leaders.

“Women now make up more than 50 per cent of college and institute students (56 per cent of enrollment and 59 per cent of graduates in 2011, according to Statistics Canada),” Amyot said in an email. “They are also gaining ground in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs where they were traditionally less present. With that we can expect even more women to access leadership positions at colleges and institutes.”

And with the recent appointment of women such as Jennifer Ruz as vice president, Finance and Administration, to Fanshawe’s leadership team effective February 2017, the outlook is bright.