Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Women as Senior Research Administration Managers

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Women as Senior Research Administration Managers

Article excerpt



In a recent research report, Carter and Silva (2010a) write:

   When women get the right education, the right training, the right
   work experience, and the right aspirations--to succeed at the
   highest levels of business--then we'll see parity.

   So goes the refrain justifying why more women aren't
   well-represented at the helm of global companies, in boardrooms,
   and in C-suites.

   The premise of the promise is that the pipeline for women into
   senior leadership is robust. After all, over the past 15 years,
   women have been graduating with advanced professional degrees in
   record numbers often equal to or even surpassing the rates for
   men, (1) swelling women's representation in managerial ranks.
   Concurrently, companies implemented diversity and inclusion
   programs to eliminate structural biases and foster women's full
   participation in leadership.

However, the authors continue:

   Given these accomplishments, who would question whether the
   pipeline for women to senior leadership is lacking? While women
   represent just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, (2) 15 percent of
   board directors at those companies, (3) and less than 14 percent of
   corporate executives at top publicly-traded companies around the
   world, (4) overall they represent 40 percent of global workforces,
   with growth in some parts of the world projected to reach double
   digits. (5) Surely, with this vigorous pipeline and the competitive
   focus on talent, women are poised to make rapid gains to the top.

   If only that were true. 6

The Society of Research Administrators has enjoyed a long history of leadership by talented women who have achieved success in their own organizations and in various fields of science and management. One of the first persons I met when I was introduced to the Society was Joanne Treat, president of the Texas A&M Research Foundation. In the many years since meeting Joanne, I have had the pleasure to work with many other accomplished women in research and research administration, from Vice Presidents and Provosts to Chief Grants Management Officers, Legal Counsel, Executive Directors and Chief Executive Officers. My perception has been that individual women have achieved great success in research administration. Carter and Silva, however, have found a different experience. In an article in the Harvard Business review (2010b), they report:

   ... that among graduates of elite MBA programs around the world the
   high potentials on whom companies are counting to navigate the
   turbulent global economy over the next decade women continue to lag
   men at every single career stage, right from their first
   professional jobs. Reports of progress in advancement,
   compensation, and career satisfaction are at best overstated, at
   worst just plain wrong.

   It's especially disconcerting that, after a decade of aggressive
   efforts to create opportunities for women, inequity remains

In light of these conflicting data, I decided to ask several senior research managers, who happen to be women, to discuss their own experience and perceptions concerning the future for women in research administration and management.



What is your perception concerning the future for women at various stages of their careers in research administration, particularly since many senior women of the "baby boomer" cohort are beginning to consider retirement? Has there been progress? Is that progress accelerating or are there continuing material obstacles such as those found by Carter and Silva?

Lynne Chronister:

I disagree with the premise. Research Administration (RA) is one area where women have been able to excel. We have overcome a lot of the biases and have a majority of both RA positions and leadership roles in pre- and post-award, and compliance. …

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