Senior Leaders in CCCU Institutions

Overture to a Research Project

December 14, 2011

During the 2010-11 academic year I compiled a data set comprising the names, genders, job titles, and credentials of more than 800 senior administrators employed at the member schools of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU). I collected this data directly from the institutions’ Web sites—a laborious process, but one that yielded a rich store of information. If God allows, I hope to work with this data to develop a profile of organizational leadership in the Christian college and university.

Over the last several months I’ve worked at intervals on initial data coding. I have much more work to do, but I’ve come far enough to draw some preliminary findings. In the weeks ahead I intend to use this blog as a venue for sharing selected findings on topics such as gender, educational level, educational field, position level, and position domain. For now I’ll share a bit more about my research methodology.

The focus of my study is the inner circle of formal leadership surrounding the President. This group goes by a variety of names—most commonly, invoking a denominator such as Cabinet, Administration, or Council. The number of its members ranges between 3 and 21 in keeping with the institution’s size and complexity, and probably with the President’s leadership style.

As I stated earlier, I collected this organizational data from the institutions’ Web sites—typically a single source, such as a directory of senior officers or a current academic catalog. More than half of the information sources specified the degrees that the institution’s officers had earned. Some went beyond this and provided biographical entries detailing work history and other qualifications. I have yet to analyze any of the latter data, but I suspect that it will prove to be enlightening.

Overall I expect my research to . . .

  • describe the extent to which the administrative leadership of CCCU schools varies or coheres;
  • ascertain the attributes of administrative officers at various levels (President, Provost, Vice President, etc.) and in various functional domains (academic affairs, student affairs, financial affairs, etc.); and
  • explore the qualitative dimensions of the administrators’ qualifications.

Practically, I hope that my findings will guide hiring institutions as they seek to fill vacancies and aspiring administrators as they face choices that will impact their career path.


December 16, 2011

My preliminary analysis of gender distribution among senior leaders of CCCU member schools has yielded some fruitful observations. Of the 811 incumbents identified by name in my research, I found that 79% were men (n=637) and just 21% were women (n=174). The administrative circle within this segment of Christian higher education is clearly dominated by men. However, that generalization obscures nuances of reality. The fact is that the prevalence of male incumbents varied substantially by position level and administrative purview. In addition, there were some differences in the educational attainments of male and female administrators considered in this study.

On the matter of position level, I found that the proportion of women increased in inverse proportion to a power continuum. In other words, the lower-ranking the position category, the more likely it was to be occupied by a woman (see Chart 1). Female presidents were extremely uncommon, being found in just 4% of schools. Other powerful posts, such as provosts and executive VPs, and indeed most standard VP positions, were also male-dominated (75%+). Positions of lesser power--identified by labels such as dean, director, and the assistant/associate variants of more powerful positions--were held by women in 32-40% of cases.

Chart 1. Gender Distribution by Position Level

Chart 1 - Gender Distribution by Position Level

The distribution of men and women also varied among the various administrative specializations (see Chart 2). The paucity of female administrators with purview over the entire institution (presidents, provosts, etc.) has already been noted. Oversight of information technology operations was even more male-dominated, with 93% of incumbents being identified as men. Advancement and spiritual life functions were also largely staffed by men. Women were most likely to fulfill leadership roles in the areas of marketing/communication (43%) and general administration (40%). The traditional cabinet roles of academic, student, and financial affairs were held by women in roughly one-quarter of cases.

Chart 2. Gender Distribution by Function

Chart 2 - Gender Distribution by Administrative Function

Finally, my initial analysis revealed that male and female administrators differed somewhat in their educational attainments. Administrator credentials were readily available for about two-thirds of the institutions included in the study. Across the 540 or so officer profiles that listed their academic degrees, males were found to have earned both master's and doctoral degrees at higher rates than their female counterparts (see Table 1).

Table 1. Educational Attainments by Gender

In presenting these preliminary findings, I'd like to solicit reader feedback on a couple of key counts. First, I'm interested to know how various readers respond to the findings--what interpretations they might attach to the data. Second, I'd be pleased if anyone can point me to sources of data that might establish a comparative framework for what I've presented here. In other words, I'm curious to know how the gender profile of CCCU administrators diverges from the norm within North American higher education. Comments are welcomed.

Group Attributes

December 17, 2011

In the post where I introduced this research project I alluded to the fact that the senior leadership group at CCCU institutions is known by a variety of terms--Cabinet, Administration, Council, etc. It's fitting to ask what this group looks like in various institutions. How large is the group, and who is invited to be a part of it? In this post I'll address those questions, noting the diversity of forms that the administrative body takes on various campuses.

As I noted in my earlier post, the senior leadership body ranges in size from a minimum of 3 members to a maximum of 21. However, more than three-quarters of institutions have a leadership group with 5 to 9 members. The average number of inner-circle administrators is 8.1, the median is 7, and the mode is 6. Chart 3 shows the distribution of officer headcounts across the 102 schools.

Chart 3. Senior Leadership Group Headcount Distribution

The cabinet, as the senior officers' group is called on 37 campuses, is above all a circle of leaders in whom the president has invested his or her trust. Indeed, in 32 institutions the name of the leadership body includes a form of the word President in it. So what kinds of officers are most often invited to be members of the president's cabinet? As Table 2 shows, vice presidents of all types (VPs, Executive VPs, Assistant/Associate VPs, etc.)--are the most common constituents, accounting for 62% of the body's members. Provost positions do not exist everywhere, but where they do, they're in the inner circle (6%). Deans and directors may also be invited to the table (7% and 4%, respectively), but this is probably done selectively more often than not. Other kinds of officers make up 8% of the total.

Table 2. Distribution of Position Levels in Senior Leadership Groups

Clearly, the senior leadership group is an exclusive group. Eighty percent of presidents lead a body of 9 or fewer officers, and these are typically people with very high levels of administrative responsibility. A sizable minority of cabinet officers (23%)--presidents, provosts, and others--have purview over the entire institution. But the majority represent one or more divisions of the institution. The functional areas most often represented at the president's table are academics (16%), finances (13%), advancement (11%), and student affairs (10%). The distribution of officers from these and other areas of operation are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Areas of Responsibility Represented in Senior Leadership Groups

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