6 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL AACC.NCHE.EDU
As I finish my eighth year as president of
Montgomery College (MC) in Maryland, I am often
asked how women succeed at community colleges.
While each woman’s journey is unique, I offer
three suggestions from my personal and professional experiences: learn the landscape, advocate
for one’s self and network with other women.
Some of the best advice I have ever gotten
about my career was to be proactive and informed.
Information is power. Networking with other
women—especially at institutions other than your
own—can provide valuable perspectives. It can
expand one’s thinking about salaries, office politics
and gender-based barriers to advancement. The more
one learns about other institutions, the more one’s
mind is opened to different practices.
GROWING YOUR NETWORK
If your institution’s culture has kept women from
advancing, there may be a discernable reason:
an entrenched old boy’s network, a leader who
discourages diversity or something more benign
like inadequate professional development funds.
Conferences that bring committed women
together, such as the annual one put on by the
American Association of Women in Community
Colleges (AAWCC)—of which I am president—
grow women’s networks. By meeting women in
positions to which one aspires, women learn about
the actual responsibilities of such work and about
other women’s trajectories.
Finding out what salaries and benefits can be
commanded for different leadership positions also is
vital for professional equity. Women have tradition-
ally been discouraged from negotiating in the hiring
process, a reality that seriously disadvantages them.
While many work environments make it difficult to
access data on gender and salaries within an institution, the Chronicle of Higher Education collects such
data and publishes it online, based on reporting to
the U.S. Department of Education. By talking about
these numbers openly, women at higher education
institutions can make conversations about inequity
more frequent and more public.
At a recent leadership conference, I heard a
former female president discuss how she had
included a clause in her contract that paid for the
cost of her husband’s long-term care. He was her
senior by at least 10 years and she knew she couldn’t
care for him and accept a presidency. Another
female president required that her spouse’s travel
to conferences be covered so that they could spend
down time together when she presented at distant
sites—a frequent requirement of her position. Such
details can improve quality of life, a true concern
for many female leaders. Because so many contract
details are often not revealed outside of friendships
or close colleagues, networking with other thoughtful, experienced women is invaluable.
UNDERSTANDING THE LANDSCAPE
Knowing the gender statistics at one’s institution also
confers an advantage. Of my eight senior advisors,
most of them vice presidents, five are women. The
provosts of two of our three campuses are women.
Women outnumber men in full-time and part-time
faculty positions at MC at a rate of about 3: 2. Women
are the clear majority among department chairs
( 28 women vs. 11 men) but not amongst deans (five
women to eight men). But I wondered if this equity
was reflected in faculty salaries—arguably, a more
meaningful measure of equity at an institution.
When I searched the Chronicle of Higher
Education for my institution’s data on gender and
salaries, I found that the average salary of a male
faculty member at every level—whether assistant professor, associate or full professor—was
greater than the average female faculty member.
By DeRionne Pollard
“Women have traditionally been discouraged from negotiating in the
hiring process, a reality that seriously disadvantages them.”