University Leadership Pipeline

Leaky for some (people of colour) but apparently not for others (white people)

2021, Innovations in Research

I present the results from an intersectional diversity scan of central and senior academic administrators at five Canadian universities: SFU, UBC, UVic, Toronto, and York. Our findings indicate that racialized men and women are hitting ceilings in the middle administrative ranks. Conversely, we find a notable over-representation of white men and women in the senior administrative ranks. Our analysis suggests that white women, unlike racialized women and men, no longer face serious barriers to representation within these senior ranks. These findings raise concerns about processes of racialization that may impede career progress for some but accelerate it for others. They raise concerns about the politics of who lifts whom into the echelons of academic decision-making, which in turn has implications for justice, knowledge, and social meanings of competency. By calling attention to the lack of racialized people in the senior administrative ranks of Canadian universities, our research aims to spur university leadership to address this apparent inequity.

It is very difficult to get demographic data that can be cross-tabulated with career progress and administrative rank. It is especially difficult to get intersectional data, capturing both gender and racialized identity, for example. Yet, this type of data is critical for identifying barriers and inequities in career progress and administrative rank. Our work addresses this data gap. Employing a diversity scan methodology, it is a comprehensive study of gender and racialized identities within central and senior leadership roles. It represents an important step toward achieving equity and inclusion within the context of Canadian university leadership.

Infographic by Malinda S. Smith and Nancy Bray, released by the Academic Women's Association of the University of Alberta for their Diversity Gap Campaign. 

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Genevieve Fuji Johnson

Professor, Department of Political Science

Diversity scan methodology and results, gender, racialization, equity, diversity and inclusion, university governance


Genevieve Fuji Johnson

Genevieve Fuji Johnson (she/her/hers) is a professor in the Department of Political Science at SFU. She studies and teaches democratic theory, grounded normative theory, feminist political thought (with an emphasis on BIWOC feminist scholars), interpretive policy analysis, qualitative methodology, and a range of current public policy issues. Her research, past and present, has been funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grants.

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