Voices from the Field: Women of Color Presidents in Higher Education

Voices from the Field

Women of color presidents and chancellors describe how their race and gender has affected their careers and suggest ways to diversify the college presidency.


In 2017 the American College on Education, in partnership with the TIAA Institute, released the eighth edition of the American College President Study, which provides a comprehensive view of the college presidency. Findings from the study show women’s representation in the presidency has nearly tripled since 1986, although women remain underrepresented. Moreover, only 5% of all presidents are women of color. To explore the reasons for this slow growth, ACE interviewed four women of color who currently serve as presidents or chancellors. The resulting report, "Voices from the Field," captures those conversations and offers unique perspectives on ways race and gender shape attitudes and choices across academia.

Key Insights

  • The biggest barrier to success for women of color can be the inclination to discount yourself too quickly.
  • Institutions need to advance individuals who have deep roots in their communities, so those communities see themselves being reflected in the leadership ranks.
  • People making important decisions affecting students may not be attuned to the needs of an increasingly diverse population.

Characteristics that define women, particularly women of color, are not necessarily accurate, but people hold those perceptions.


The American Council on Education conducted semi-structured interviews with four women of color leaders: Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Benedict College (SC); Waded Cruzado, president of Montana State University; Judy Miner, chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District (CA); and Judy Sakaki, president of Sonoma State University (CA). Transcripts of these interviews, edited for clarity, appear in this report.

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