Webster University Chancellor Speaks at the Eighth European Women Rectors Association Conference, Advocates for Gender Diversity in Higher Education Leadership

Chancellor Stroble speaking during a panel at the EWORA conference while other panelists look on.

Webster University Chancellor Beth Stroble recently participated in the European Women Rectors Association (EWORA) Conference held from Nov. 2-3 at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, Turkey. The conference, held on alternating years, focused on the theme of global female leadership and the future of universities. Women in leadership positions at universities and research organizations, as well as gender experts and members of higher education networks, came together for two days of roundtable discussions and keynote speeches.  

EWORA, a non-profit established in Belgium, seeks to promote the role of women in leadership positions in the academic sector and to advocate for gender equality in higher education and research at European and international scales. 

It’s no coincidence that Stroble was involved in this year’s EWORA conference. She is preparing for a sabbatical this spring - and she plans to continue her research in women in higher education leadership as one aspect of her spring activity. After reading the book “INVISIBLE WOMEN: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men,” by Caroline Criado Perez during the pandemic, Stroble was inspired to resume her research begun almost twenty years ago and to explore trends at a global level.   

“Many databases in the world that report data trends for people are not inclusive, relying on data collected primarily from men and not disaggregated by gender. My main message was that counting matters. We want women to count, and we want to be counted. Data should be inclusive of gender, because not being inclusive gives us an imperfect picture of the world.” 

During the conference, Stroble joined higher education leadership experts from around the world as she took part in two sessions: “Transformational Leadership Under the High Speed of Change” and “15th Anniversary of the European Women Rectors Conference Series.” 

As part of the “Transformational Leadership Under the High Speed of Change” panel, Stroble shared data from her research, conducted with Webster graduate student Chris Groh, about the disparity between women and men leaders of universities in the United States. Historically, men have served in positions of leadership within universities. Women’s leadership sharply increased in the 1990’s before plateauing. 

Stroble notes women’s leadership in higher education is on the rise again.  

“I want us to look at how women are represented in higher education leadership, because I think now is a moment where it can grow. I don’t want people to miss that by not being aware.” 

Chancellor Stroble speaking during a panel at the EWORA conference.

As a woman in higher education leadership, Stroble is working to ensure that people are aware of the opportunity for women’s advancement. Stroble serves on the executive committee of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP). In this role, she is co-leading a women’s leadership initiative to increase female representation and connection.  
“Internationally, men predominate in higher education leadership. Although, just as in the U.S., there is a growing percentage of women. We (IAUP) decided as an organization that we wanted to assemble the data globally and by region and hold webinars. Through these webinars, we want to encourage university leaders to mentor women in their organizations, build better diversity on their cabinets, and network with women who are already in those roles to support them in their career development. We’ve made a commitment that on conferences and webinars we host, we will ensure a particular percentage of the panels always have women on them.”  

While IAUP is an organization for international higher education leadership, the creation of EWORA formed a community for European women across all fields of academia in higher education leadership. One of IAUP’s members, Gülsün Sağlamer, has served as EWORA’s president since its conception in 2008. Sağlamer overcame several obstacles in building EWORA from the ground up, growing it into the network it is today. After 15 years of leading the organization, Sağlamer will be concluding her service as EWORA’s president. During the final session of the conference, “15th Anniversary of the European Women Rectors Conference Series,” Stroble presented an award to Sağlamer on behalf of IAUP, recognizing her work with EWORA.

The Mediterranean Science Team’s 2023 Gala was also held during this year’s EWORA Conference. At the gala, 11 high-level Mediterranean women of different nationalities were selected to become part of the science team. These scientists were recognized for their contributions and promise for identifying solutions for the common problems of the Mediterranean peoples.  

Stroble said she felt fortunate to have been in the presence of the women comprising the EWORA community. 

Chancellor Stroble alongside other EWORA attendees.

“Having the opportunity to interact with women who are trailblazers is important. It was truly inspiring to sit with them on a panel or at dinners. By spending time with them, I learned how much they were willing to sacrifice, not only for their own careers, but to help others. I felt honored to be in their presence and learn what life was like for them when they started their careers. Because of their leadership, opportunities have grown for others.” 

To view a highlight video from the EWORA Conference, click here.

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