Simply the best job on campus, Business School Dean
27 January 2021
Lisa Leander, Founder & CEO of Women in Business Education (WiBE), sets out why women Deans think it’s the best job on campus.
I recently was introducing myself during a virtual networking session at an international management conference over Zoom. I explained I was the CEO of Women in Business Education, a global community championing gender balance and diversity at all levels of leadership in the business school. Women only comprise about 1 out of 4 Deans and 1 out of 3 of Associate Deans at business schools, and we are working to increase this pipeline of future leaders. Before we moved on to the next introduction, I was asked by another participant whether women even wanted to be a Dean? It was such a tough and sometimes thankless position, especially when higher education institutions were under such strain of Covid. Perhaps it was low because there just weren’t enough female candidates. Perhaps the interest simply wasn’t there.
I do hear how complex, difficult and stressful a business school Dean position can be. Moving into the top leadership role gives one an important seat at the decision making table, but less opportunity for research and teaching. I’ve heard from both male and female academics about their reticence to give this up to move into administration.
Each month in Women in Business Education we bring together over 50 female deans from around the world to discuss issues that are top of mind. My earlier discussion came to mind, so I asked, “Why should someone actively pursue the position of Dean?”
And the overwhelming response was, because it is the best job on campus. Here is what they had to say:
"As Dean, I am leading an organization whose purpose is to educate the next generation of business entrepreneurs and leaders who will be ready to make the world a better, more productive and sustainable place. Nothing more. Nothing less. I think about this purpose every day."- Astrid Sheil, Dean, School of Business, Shenandoah University
“For me, being a business Dean is the best job on campus because it is strategic and outward facing. Because we do a lot of fundraising, we also have an additional degree of freedom in moving forward our vision for the program. And yet we are able to stay close to students and focus on improving their outcomes in everything we do. It’s an extremely fulfilling job despite the challenges that all important jobs encounter.”—Brewer Doran, College of Business, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
“The business Dean position is the best job on campus because your college is important to the university, you have the ability to impact both students and faculty, and you get to talk with incredibly cool alumni and local business community people.” –Lynne Richardson, Dean, College of Business, University of Mary Washington
“Our job as Dean of the Business School is to connect with the Business and external community given our Alumni and our faculty and student engagement - and so we are one of the most visible, external agents of the higher education community. We have the best opportunity beyond the President’s position to have external impact and engagement in the field because of our jobs!”—Elizabeth Davis, Dean, School of Economics and Business Administration, Saint Mary’s College of California
It is an incredible responsibility to lead a business school, particularly in these challenging times. However, many women Deans are successfully leading business schools and thriving in the position.
When I met with the WiBE Associate Deans the following month, they confirmed what my gut was telling me. Yes, there are many (many) women who would like to be Dean one day.
If we are to increase the number of senior women leaders in business schools, we need more individuals encouraging, mentoring and sponsoring potential candidates to apply for these positions.
We then, of course, need to hire them too.
I invite you to follow our movement on Linked In as we champion gender balance and diversity at all levels of leadership in the business school.
Lisa Leander is Founder & CEO of Women in Business Education (WiBE), a global community championing women’s leadership in business academia based in Washington, DC. Learn more about WiBE and their movement at www.wibenetwork.com