Quick Take:

With more than a third of the campus’ deans and tenured professors being female, UC Santa Cruz — and its female chancellor, Cynthia Larive — leads the nation in gender diversity, according to a new ranking.

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive and Arts Division dean Celine Parreñas Shimizu both know on a personal level the importance of having people with diverse backgrounds represented in all spheres of life, from a classroom to a movie set — and particularly as leaders.

So when a new report ranked UCSC first for women in leadership positions among 130 top U.S. research universities, they were proud of the work they’re doing and thankful for the people who came before them.

“I was used to being the only [woman] as a chemist,” Larive said. “And one of the few women graduate students in my graduate program.”

Diverse leaders themselves produce better role models and offer direct experience of diversity, says Shimizu. She mentions Larive as an example.

“Our chancellor herself is a first-generation college student, and she has made it a priority to really think about the experiences of first-generation students,” Shimizu said. “What does it take for all of our students to succeed? So that kind of leadership is really a guiding light.”

The report produced by the Women’s Power Gap Initiative included major findings, a list of recommendations and the index and ranking of the 130 universities. The Eos Foundation created the initiative in 2018 and collaborated with the American Association of University Women to produce the report.

Eos focuses its charitable investments on efforts to fight hunger and poverty and address structural barriers to gender and racial equity. By conducting research on women in leadership in different industries, the group aims to increase the number of women from diverse backgrounds in leadership roles.

Fast facts from the Women's Power Gap Initiative 2022 report
Credit: Via Women’s Power Gap Initiative

UC Santa Cruz topped the ranking with a score of 92.5, being only one one of six universities in the group to have had three women serve in the top spot. Prior to Larive, UCSC chancellors included women leaders in M.R.C. Greenwood (1996-2004) and Denice Denton (2005-06). Currently, Lori Kletzer, now campus provost and executive vice chancellor, the campus’ No. 2 position, took on her role in 2020.

To win first place in this ranking, UCSC produced these numbers in the September 2021 survey:

  • Thirty-eight percent of the academic deans are women.
  • Thirty-six percent of tenured professors are women.
  • Sixty percent of the campus’ cabinet are women.

UCSC narrowly beat CUNY Graduate School, which scored 89.4, as shown below.

A chart showing the gender representation rankings at major universities

UC Berkeley was the next-highest-ranking UC campus, coming in at 17th with a score of 71.2, and was categorized as “Almost There,” while the lowest-ranking campus of the system, UC Santa Barbara, was 113th and categorized as “Needs Urgent Action.” UCLA and UC Irvine were listed as having “Work To Do”:

A chart of California university rankings on gender diversity

“Diversity is so important, because we know there’s plenty of research that says that diverse teams are more innovative, diverse teams are more productive. And that’s important for UC Santa Cruz,” Larive said. “That diversity is diversity in outlooks and backgrounds in gender and in ethnic and racial terms as well. But we really want to look at it from a holistic point of view.”

Only 13 schools out of 130 ranked received the leader designation, as shown in the top rankings.

The authors found that 46% of the universities have not had a single woman president. In addition, the majority of the universities have had less than 40% women serving as academic deans and on average 27% women serving as tenured professors. Finally, women of color are underrepresented among all leadership positions, with their highest proportions in the president’s cabinet.

A chart on gender diversity in academic leadership positions

At UCSC, officials say the senate faculty has gone from 12.6% underrepresented minorities (Latinx, Indigenous, or Black) to 17% over the past 10 years.

That’s an issue Shimizu thinks about often.

“I’m the first woman of color dean for the arts in the university,” Shimizu said.

UC Santa Cruz Arts Division dean Celine Parreñas Shimizu.
UC Santa Cruz Arts Division dean Celine Parreñas Shimizu. Credit: Via UC Santa Cruz

Shimizu, a scholar and filmmaker, says that just 4% of the most popular films are authored by women.

“Isn’t that astounding?” says Shimizu, a film scholar and filmmaker. “Because what that means then is, if films inform us about who we are and who we can be, then what we know about love, marriage, family, ethics and rights comes from such a limited structural perspective. So, with that awareness, we want to make sure that the faculty brings their diverse interests.”Shimizu added that a diverse faculty representative of today’s students is crucial.

Evanna Wong, a fourth-year student, agreed.

“It makes me feel more confident my voice will be heard,” she said after learning of the report. “I think it’s powerful and inspiring. It’s really comforting seeing different types of people on campus and not just one group.”

The report includes a list of recommendations and solutions that includes actions local governments, university leadership and community members can take to continue closing the gender and WOC gaps.

Increasing transparency is one of them. That includes the public posting of demographic data for top leadership and faculty positions. “Several large corporations have been leading on reporting gender and race data among their leadership and on their boards (and all public companies must disclose compensation of their five highest-paid executives in their proxies),” the authors wrote in the report. “It is disconcerting that universities — highly esteemed nonprofit institutions — are not disclosing this data to their students, alumni, and the public in this era of transparency.”

The authors say that making data publicly available helps push change by giving stakeholders a chance to hold institutions accountable and to track their progress.

Larive said she sees a possible downside of that, as it could lead to a sense of checking boxes.

“I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about doing that because it promotes this kind of counting mentality to people,” she says. “I really think that we have to think about diversity more broadly. I value my colleagues who help promote diversity, regardless of their backgrounds.”

After three years of reporting on public safety in Iowa, Hillary joins Lookout Santa Cruz with a curious eye toward the county’s education beat. At the Iowa City Press-Citizen, she focused on how local...