Strides in Diversity: Triton Women Who Lead

Audience from the sold out 2020 Triton Women Who Lead Forum

Over the past few days, I attended several events including the annual, two-day Triton Leaders Conference + Celebration. I was invited to give welcome remarks at “Triton Women Who Lead Forum” and the annual Women Faculty Reception.

In preparing my welcome remarks, I had an opportunity to reflect on the tremendous progress we have made in our goal to diversify senior leadership at UC San Diego since I began my tenure as chancellor in 2012.

Welcoming the Triton Women Who Lead Forum

When I first arrived at UC San Diego, I found a campus that had women leaders and faculty, certainly, but very few of them had risen to senior leadership roles. It was clear to me that we needed to address that disparity.

And not because it was the politically correct thing to do or to meet an industry trend, but because this campus was missing out on hiring truly excellent leaders. We were missing out on brilliant strategists and experts who knew their industry inside and out. We were missing out on keen analysis, progressive ideas and remarkably effective solutions. We were missing out on 51% of the world’s greatest leaders.

So, I asked our team to change course. We set forth strategies to both widen our recruitment searches and to look more closely at the abilities of our candidates to translate experience that demonstrated leadership and leadership potential. It is an effort that is paying off.

We began to find dynamic candidates with excellent credentials and deep experience, some from our very own ranks here at UC San Diego. We found curious minds that were eager to look deeper into complex issues. We found broad perspectives, fearless prospectors willing to mine new ideas and probe new frontiers. Above all, we found incredibly capable leaders.

And we hired them.

Associate Chancellor Suzi Sterner, Vice Chancellors Becky Petitt and Allyson Satterlund, and Deans Kit Pogliano and Lisa D. Ordóñez shared their personal stories of leadership and women’s empowerment at the sold-out “Triton Women Who Lead Forum.”

When I first arrived, there were only three women on the chancellor’s cabinet. Today, 10 of the 17 cabinet members are women. When I first arrived, there were no women academic deans. Today, five of 10 academic deans are women, and four of seven provosts are women. And when I first arrived, there were only 424 women in management and senior professional positions. Today, there are 822—nearly double the number MSP positions.

Graph of UC San Diego senior leadership by gender

Today, women occupy 53% of management and senior professional roles and 63% of all senior leadership roles at UC San Diego. And since 2014, the number of women ladder ranked faculty and teaching professors have increased by 37%, outpacing the 17% total growth of ladder ranked faculty and teaching professors.

Graph of UC San Diego management and senior professionals by gender

We did this by searching wider and looking deeper into our candidate pools. This conscious effort made the difference. And that difference began a cascade of change across campus.

Our Triton women in senior leadership positions have set excellent examples for everyone on campus. And their visibility is inspiring our students. This year, the Associated Students and the Graduate Student Association are led by women—Eleanor Grudin and Rachel Flanagan. Last year—in her third year at UC San Diego—Caroline Siegel Singh served as UC Student Association President. This year, Caroline was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsome as the Student Representative on the California Student Aid Commission.

Great student leaders become great alumni who lead. Triton alumni ranks are full of amazing women leaders. They are changing the world in both subtle and amazing ways. They lead on every level—neighborhood, local, regional, state, federal and international. They make a difference wherever they are in various industries.

Triton Women Who Lead Forum Panel Discussion

Today, one is out of this world and miles above the rest, literally. Astronaut Jessica Meir is currently conducting research and completing a six-month mission on the International Space Station. She and fellow astronaut Christina Koch made history in October, completing the first all-woman spacewalk. What a statement for women and girls today. And I’m NOT surprised. UC San Diego is ranked first in the nation for enrolling and graduating the most women with majors in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

I’m also NOT surprised that iconic political activist Angela Davis is a Triton alumna. For nine of the past 10 years, UC San Diego was named the #1 public university in the country for contributions to social mobility, research and public service. This outcome was seeded by the long history of Triton philosophies that inspire students, faculty and alumni to look deeper at the world around them to find effective solutions to society’s greatest challenges.

Angela epitomizes that approach. She changed the national conversation about incarceration and started an international movement to better understand tools of oppression.

Following in her trail-blazing footsteps, another alumna—Alicia Garza—started a national movement around civil rights and rights for domestic workers. Alicia’s Black Lives Matter stands as one of the most significant movements of our time. Alicia, Angela, and Jessica are three amazing Triton leaders of thousands and thousands more.

I’m proud of the phenomenal progress UC San Diego has made to hire and promote women leaders and the strong message that sends to our students, our alumni, and our greater community.

Triton Women Who Lead Forum panelists Dean Lisa D. Ordóñez and Vice Chancellor Becky Petitt