Examining Gender Diversity in Senior Administration

Salwa Ammar, Ph.D., has served as the dean of the school of business since July 2, 2009, and until 2011 when Cheryl Harrison, Ed.D., was named executive coordinator of the school of continuing and professional studies, was the only woman on the deans’ council.

Ammar, though, is still the only woman on campus to bear the name dean, and she said she wishes there were more diversity on campus.

“The first step is to clearly recognize and understand the true value of diversity,” she said in an emailed statement. “Women bring strengths and perspectives that are vital in any decision making process.”

Between President Brennan O’Donnell’s, Ph.D., vice presidents, the deans’ council and Board of Trustees, there are 54 top administrators with major decision-making power: nine vice presidents (counting the Provost), six deans counting Harrison and 40 trustees, which includes O’Donnell. It is worth noting that Harrison is not represented on the “Leadership and Governance” page of the Manhattan College website.

Thirteen of those administrators are women, one of whom serves as a vice president of the College.

“Those of us who study leadership know that it is expressed in a variety of ways, and women represent an important part of these expressions,” Ammar said in her email. “In today’s environment, any institution that does not embrace diversity in its leadership puts itself at a strategic disadvantage.”

O’Donnell said he is trying to make a conscious effort to increase diversity in senior leadership roles.

“Each time that I have been involved in a search [for employees] I have made a deliberate effort to make sure that the pool is diversified,” he said. “One of the things we are trying to search for is diversity and it’s great when those things come together, but they don’t always come together in terms of overall quality.”

According to the American Council on Education, 26 percent of college presidents are women, though the majority of them are in associate, or 2-year colleges. Religious studies professor Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Ph.D. says that she sees those trends on this campus and others.

“Of the deans of the college, one of them is a women and one of them is a minority and it’s the same person,” she said. “They tend to skew male—and white, and white.”

O’Donnell said he has instituted a diversity committing for hiring new employees and that they are dedicated to increasing gender and ethnic diversity among senior leadership roles. He says that in his time as president, he has appointed nine new trustees to the board, four of whom have been women.

“There are a lot of people who have been promoted to senior leadership—what I consider to be senior leadership, which are dorm directors, program directors, assistant vice presidents—throughout the college who are women,” he said. “Marissa Passafiume: director of the center for academic success, Rani Roy of career development, Lois Harr’s promotion to assistant vice president of student life.”

Ammar said that she believes that the hiring committees on campus are doing everything in their power to increase the diversity of a 55-person administration that is only 20 percent female.

“We have to remember that while we are an established college with a rich tradition, we are relatively young in our co-educational history,” she said. “But we are now at the point where we can identify women leaders who have a strong affinity with the College and can serve on its board.”

Imperatori-Lee is less optimistic, though, even adding that the faculty also needs to be further diversified.

“They keep saying they want diversity but they just can’t find any qualified candidates. If you hear that enough tomes you start to see a pattern,” she said. “It does a disservice to the students for the administration and the faculty to not look like them.”