More Women Trustees on College Boards – but Far from Equal Representation

Women now represent the majority of undergraduate students at colleges and universities, but in the boardrooms, trustee membership is still dominated by men. Several recent studies have looked at patterns regarding the appointment of female trustees, their role on the board and whether or not gender matters as boards grapple with policy.

A 2010 study by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges reports that men outnumbered women by more than 2-to-1 on governing boards of both independent and public four-year institutions. The overall statistics show that women comprise only 29.9 percent of board members at public and private institutions, with 18.5 percent serving as chair. At community colleges, women are represented in greater numbers than on university boards. A 2009 Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) survey revealed that 66 percent of trustees are male and 34 percent are female.

The road to becoming a community college trustee is varied. A slim majority, 53 percent, are appointed by their state’s governor. But in other cases, the board consists of a combination of appointed and elected trustees.

When it comes to the politics of trustee appointments and factors that influence the decision to appoint female versus male trustees, at least one study shows that states with larger shares of female legislators have higher probabilities of appointing and confirming female trustees to a board. Additionally, if the governor is a Democrat, he or she is 6 percent or 7 percent more likely to appoint a female trustee.

Mirinda Martin, a Cornell University Ph.D. candidate who published the study last year, said, “when a governor is appointing a trustee, it is a fairly visible way to appoint a woman to a leadership position where that decision will not encounter much resistance.”

Does Gender Matter?

Last year, researchers at the Cornell University Higher Education Research Institute (CHERI) issued a study concluding that the gender composition of college leaders, including trustees, does matter.

The study, Do Trustees and Administrators Matter? Diversifying the Faculty Across Gender Lines, looked at the period from 1981 to 2007, a time when the percentage of female trustees increased from 20 percent to 31 percent. The goals of the survey were to document trends in the gender of board members and leaders and to learn whether gender composition influences the appointment of chancellors, presidents and chief academic officers. In addition, the study examined whether the gender composition of board leaders and members and key academic administrators influences the rate at which academic institutions are diversifying their faculty.

“We found that institutions with female presidents and female provosts and those with a greater share of female trustees did increase their share of female faculty at more rapid rates,” said Ronald Ehrenberg, director of CHERI.

As might be expected, the report shows the magnitude of the impact of women leaders is greatest at smaller institutions. In addition, the study cautions that a critical share of female trustees, which has been defined as 25 percent, must be reached before gender composition leads to change. 

For this issue, The Hispanic Outlook profiles five trustees who have helped make inroads into female representation and leadership on college and university boards of trustees.

Sylvia Scott

Sylvia Scott-Hayes
Los Angeles Community College District

An educator and community activist, Sylvia Scott-Hayes was first elected to the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) Board of Trustees in 1999 and subsequently was the first Latina to become its president. She served three terms as president of the board, leading the district through tremendous growth. The district now has nine colleges enrolling more than 140,000 students. The student body is 51 percent Latino. It is the connection to students that has been most meaningful to Scott-Hayes.

“I have been most impacted by getting to know and hear so many personal stories of our diverse students,” she said. “Our classrooms are filled with students who are here with strong support of family and friends, and many others are here in spite of not having that kind of support. Yet all are working on their futures.”

Under Scott-Hayes’ leadership, the board adopted a nationally recognized environmental
sustainability building policy for which it received the prestigious Green Cross Millennium Award from Global Green USA, for its leadership in launching an extensive program to transform the Los Angeles community colleges into energyefficient, sustainable campuses.

Scott-Hayes still serves as an LACCD trustee and currently chairs the board’s planning and student success committee, which ensures the colleges are meeting accreditation standards. She says she has truly enjoyed being a policymaker for a district that impacts the lives of so many people.

“As an immigrant, it has been very rewarding to have had the platform and a strong voice in calling for the improvement and strengthening of student support programs,” she said, adding that she is especially proud of the bond measures that allocated funds for upgrading the facilities and grounds of the LACCD campuses.

“I believe our students deserve beautiful facilities to pursue their educational dreams,” she said.

Scott-Hayes has been honored by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, for her steadfast mission to increase the number of students transferring to four-year institutions, by establishment of a scholarship in her name. She has received the Community Service Award from the National Chicano Health Organization, Outstanding Service Award from the Hispanic Women’s Health Organization, Visionary Leadership Award from the Los Angeles Women’s Appointment Collaboration, and Outstanding Women Award of California State University-Los Angeles. Scott-Hayes received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in urban education from California State University-Los Angeles, and, in addition, engaged in doctoral coursework in politics at Claremont Graduate University.

Miriam López
Claudia Puig
Florida International University

Miriam Lopez

Located in Miami, Florida International University (FIU) is a four-year public research university with an enrollment of more than 40,000, making it one of the 25 largest universities in the nation. It awards more bachelor’s and master’s degrees to Hispanics than any other institution. It also has the distinction of having two Hispanic women serve on its 13-member board of trustees.

One is Miriam López, president and chief lending officer at Marquis Bank, a position she has held since August 2010. Prior to this, López spent 25 years at TransAtlantic Bank serving as president and CEO for 18 years. She was chair of the American Bankers Association Community Council from 1999-2000 and president of the Florida Bankers Association from 2000-01.

A FIU trustee since 2001, López says she enjoys being able to interact with the community of students as well as have a direct impact on their education.

“I really like participating in commencement ceremonies.” she said. “It is great to see the enthusiasm and to know that many of our future leaders are sitting in this arena with me.” López is a member of several community organizations, including the Doctors Hospital board of directors, and the Mercy Hospital Foundation board of directors. She also is a mentor in local public schools, where she is an advocate for education.

“I explain how I came to this country with very little and the same held true for my parents and that you can overcome difficulties and still follow your dreams,” she said. “I stress that the one thing that can never be taken away is your education.”

López graduated from Barry University with a bachelor’s degree in education and attended graduate school at the University of Miami and also received a certificate in business administration with an emphasis in accounting.

Claudia Puig

Claudia Puig has been a trustee since 2003. She is senior vice president/southeastern regional manager of Univision Radio, which owns some of the top-rated Spanish-language radio stations in Miami.

A Cuban native, Puig began her work experience in advertising and sales with BellSouth.

Prior to her current position, she was vice president and then VP/general manager of Spanish Broadcasting Systems in Miami. In recognition of her experience as a broadcast executive, President George W. Bush appointed her to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2003. She also is a board member of the City of Miami Arts and Entertainment Council.

Puig has been inducted into the Hall of Fame of Miami Dade College.

Rita DiMartino
City University of New York

Rita DiMartino

When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Rita DiMartino to the City University of New York (CUNY) Board of Trustees in 2003, he cited her “extraordinary record of corporate experience and her status as an esteemed member of the Hispanic community and nationally recognized expert on Hispanic affairs.”

DiMartino worked for AT&T for 25 years, starting in the area of college relations, in which she interacted with various higher education institutions, and represented AT&T at many national higher education conferences. She rose to the position of vice president of Congressional Relations for AT&T, involving her in AT&T’s interactions with the administration, Congress and with state governments.

A CUNY graduate from the College of Staten Island, DiMartino said she considered the opportunity to be a trustee as the chance to “pay back my alma mater for the quality of education I received.” She also holds an M.P.A. from Long Island University (C. W. Post Center).

DiMartino received several presidential appointments, including one from President Ronald Reagan, who named her ambassador to the UNICEF Executive Board in 1982, and another from President George H. W. Bush to the USO World Board of Governors in 1992. In 2005, DiMartino was appointed by Secretary Elaine Chao to the U.S. Department of Labor National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships and served on the Commission on Federal Election Reform. She has also served on 12 International ElectoralObservation Missions. She has received numerous awards and honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York State Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. 

DiMartino is chairman of the board of Bronx- Lebanon Hospital, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Ana G. Méndez University System, and the advisory board of the Inter-American Foundation. She has previously served on the board of trustees of Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry.

Being a trustee for CUNY entails overseeing one of the largest urban universities in the United States, with more than 260,000 credit students. The City University of New York is composed of more than 23 colleges and institutions, including community colleges, senior colleges, a technical college, graduate school, law school and a medical school.

Varsovia Fernandez

Varsovia Fernández
Community College of Philadelphia

Varsovia Fernández, vice chair of the board of trustees at Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), said that her belief in giving back to the community was instilled during her upbringing in the Dominican Republic. As a young girl, she watched her parents volunteer with the Dominican Republic Red Cross as the country transitioned from a dictatorship to a democracy. “My parents made many people’s lives better by their example,” she said in a broadcast on National Public Radio. “I hoped that some day I, too, would be able to do such great things for people with fewer resources.”

Today Fernández is president and chief executive officer of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC), which she joined in 2006. Her decision to join the chamber followed years of working in the profit sector, which made her realize that Philadelphia’s corporate community needed to become more diverse and that she could help Hispanic businesses.

During her tenure, the chamber achieved record levels of membership, revenues and member-driven activities. Fernández launched GPHCC’s Professional Mentoring Network, a work force development initiative to help Hispanic professionals connect with executives and with Hispanic youth. Under her leadership, the chamber has created a voice for Hispanic business in the region by developing a programmatic strategy that builds on the small business, professional and corporate Hispanic markets.

Prior to GPHCC, Fernández worked with Congreso de Latinos Unidos as vice president of External Affairs.

At CCP, Fernández is part of a 15-member group of diverse leaders from the city’s legal, financial, economic and pharmaceutical sectors.

The college has 70 degree programs and enrolls approximately 39,000 students in credit and noncredit courses. Women comprise 67 percent of the student body, which is 10 percent Hispanic.

Fernández is committed to philanthropic and civic endeavors and serves on the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperative Authority and Philadelphia’s Zoning Code Commission.

She attended Temple University and graduated from Rosemont College.