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Women as Presidents: Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Education

This past week, Wake Forest University named its 14th President- Dr. Susan R. Wente, who is currently the Provost at Vanderbilt University. A highly accomplished educator with a background in biochemistry, Dr. Wente appears highly qualified to lead Wake Forest, especially in regards to the Wake Forest Baptist Health System and her experience at other universities of a similar caliber. Her appointment caused a lot of excitement in the community, as she is WFU’s first female president. This selection prompted me to do some research, and the facts are jarring. 

Only 30% of presidents of colleges and universities in the US are women (Factsheets). In the ACC, Wake will be the second university to have a female president, behind the University of Louisville. These facts are especially surprising when considering that, in terms of higher education, women earned 57% of all bachelor’s degrees, 59% of all master’s degrees, and 53% of doctoral degrees in 2016 and 2017 (Factsheets). Higher education is dominated by women, but its leadership is not, something all too familiar in other industries as well. 

With Dr. Jill Biden as the current First Lady, hopefully, her passion and dedication to education will spark a change in educational leadership, promoting more diversity across the board. With role models like Dr. Biden at a prominent place in our country and Dr. Wente leading our University, the Wake Forest community is uniquely positioned to recognize the benefits of diversity in leadership and to promote increased representation of women in leadership roles in education. It is an exciting time to be a Demon Deacon, as we all prepare to watch our University’s history unfold and, here at Her Campus, to continue to embrace the empowerment of women, highlighted perfectly by Dr. Wente. 

Erin Byrd

Wake Forest '23

Erin is a sophomore from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who hopes to major in Finance and minor in Psychology.
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