Can we talk?: A frank discussion about gender equity and leadership in online higher education

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Well-prepared senior leaders in online higher education are more needed than ever. Many emerging leaders in the field are women, yet women are generally underrepresented in senior leadership roles in academe, largely due to gender bias. Join us for an open discussion regarding men and women working together to address gender bias and leadership in online higher education.


Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Ciabocchi currently serves as associate provost for academic affairs at Adelphi University. In this role, she oversees all curricular offerings, working closely with each of the University’s deans, faculty and administrative offices to implement, manage and revise the curriculum, including interdisciplinary offerings. She also serves as the primary Adelphi University liaison with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the New York State Education Department and the U.S. Department of Education. With more than 25 years of experience in higher education, Liz most recently served as vice provost for digital learning and executive director of online learning and services at St. John’s University, where she led academic initiatives to develop digital learning strategies for programs offered in fully online and hybrid formats. Prior to her time at St. John’s, she served in various roles at Long Island University, such as associate vice president for online learning, and also in areas including instructional technology, academic planning and academic affairs. She previously worked at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and the New York College of Health Professions. Author of two book chapters, Liz has published peer-reviewed journal articles and has presented her research on leadership and e-learning in higher education and other topics at dozens of conferences. Her teaching experience includes graduate-level courses in St. John’s University’s School of Education and undergraduate courses and graduate thesis supervision at the New York College of Health Professions. She has been extensively involved in committees and evaluation teams for Middle States reaccreditation and has held board and committee positions with the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), which named her a fellow in 2015. Liz earned her EdD in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University; a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from New York Chiropractic College; and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Scranton. She holds certifications from the OLC in Online Teaching and Leadership in Online Learning.
Since 2012, Dr. Ragan has served as a Co-Director for the Center for Online Innovation in Learning at Penn State University where he helps direct the Center’s mission of research, scholarship, technology innovation, and leadership development programming. Dr. Ragan has been a part of the creation and management of Penn State’s World Campus since it’s inception in 1998 serving as Director for Instructional Design and Development and Director of Faculty Development. Since 2009, Dr. Ragan has served as Co-Director of the Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL). In partnership with the leadership at the Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan-C), IELOL addresses the operational and strategic leadership of the design, development, and preparation of the next-generation of leadership in online learning. Dr. Ragan has served as founding co-director and faculty of the EDUCAUSE Learning Technology Leadership program (2005-2007). He is also active in the design and delivery of international leadership development institutes. In 2011, Lawrence Ragan was recognized as a Sloan-C Faculty Fellow.
Dr. Moore is currently the Director of the Research Academy for Integrated Learning (RAIL) at University of DC. He also serves as an adjunct Assistant Professor Temple University’s Teaching in Higher Education Certificate program in the College of Education. He has a Doctorate of Education in Urban Education from Temple University and a Masters of Arts from The Ohio State University in Higher Education Administration. His dissertation investigated how exemplary college faculty employ Universal Design for Learning principles in their teaching practices. Carl has been teaching for over 12 years and has created and instructed a variety of courses in education at Temple, Cabrini College, and Arcadia University in both face-to-face and online formats. He also frequently an invited speaker and consultant on inclusion, leadership, and teaching and learning related topics. Prior to his current role, Carl was the Assistant Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at Temple University. He also served in a number of student services roles that focused on providing individual and institutional support to retain and advance learner success. These roles include: at the Community College of Philadelphia, Director of Student Success Initiatives; at Temple, Associate Director of Fox Advising, Assistant Director of Multicultural Education; at Kutztown University, Upward Bound TRIO Program Director. As a self-described social justice advocate and "techie," the sum Carl’s passion lies in the development of programs on teaching with technology and inclusion in higher education."

Extended Abstract

The need for well-prepared senior leaders in online higher education has never been greater, and the pool of emerging leaders in this field continues to grow.  While many emerging online leaders are women, they will continue to be underrepresented in the highest leadership roles for many years to come unless institutions become more intentional in creating structures and policies to achieve gender equality at this level.  

There is no shortage of women in the academic pipeline—women earn more degrees at all levels than men—but they tend to hold more entry-level, teaching-only and service positions than their male counterparts (ACE, 2016). Additionally, the metaphor of the glass ceiling, or systemic barriers to attaining senior leadership positions, still holds true, especially for women of color. This is evidenced by a significant pay gap between men and women of similar academic rank, and the fact that men are more likely than women to be on a tenure track (ACE, 2016). Studies also show that women are as likely as men to make gender-biased judgments, which may be rooted in certain cultural factors(ACE, 2016).

It has been argued that pervasive gender bias, which is often unconscious and/or unintentional, is the most significant barrier to women advancing to senior leadership roles. How can we, as a community of online educators, raise awareness of this important issue? Most importantly,  how can we help our institutions to more effectively address gender bias to increase the number of senior women leaders, including women of color?

In this session, we will discuss some of the tensions and barriers to open, honest dialogue between male and female colleagues about the issue of gender bias as an impediment to senior women leaders. We will provide personal examples of difficult situations and discussions related to unconscious and/or unintentional gender bias, and encourage session participants to share their experiences via a question-and-answer format.  Additionally, we will provide examples of institutional initiatives, structures, and policies designed to systemically counteract gender bias, and invite participants to share their own examples and suggestions.  Key takeaways from the session will include heightened awareness and understanding of communication barriers between women and men regarding gender bias;  increased ability to recognize and respond to unconscious and/or unintentional gender bias against women leaders, and a better understanding of institutional structures, policies and initiatives to counteract gender bias and increase the number of women in senior leadership positions in online higher education.