Janet Napolitano: Risk, Resolve, and Running a Major University Systemhttp://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/08/running-a-major-university-system-as-a-woman/497012/
DeRuy: One of the criticisms of higher education is that women so often occupy adjunct positions that pay little and don’t lead to tenure and, importantly, aren’t a pipeline to leadership positions like yours at universities. Is that something you’re focused on at all or think needs to change?
Napolitano: I think in higher education today, there’s a growing use of what we would call “non-ladder-rank faculty,” so ladder rank are tenure-track and non-ladder rank are adjuncts, or they come with different labels. All can be very valuable to the student experience. We haven’t focused on that [trend] intensely in that way. What we have focused on is how do we diversify the faculty both with respect to women, particularly in some disciplines, and with respect to underrepresented minorities. And that’s a really tough issue. You look at colleges of engineering and there aren’t a lot of women on faculties. That’s one of the clearer examples. And so how do we make sure, when we’re searching for ladder-rank faculty, that we are being as inclusive as we can and that the search process is not infected with implicit bias and we end up with the most diverse faculty we can.
DeRuy: When you talk to different generations, you often hear different things from women of different ages about leadership. As someone who spends a lot of time interacting with young people, is there anything that has struck you about young women and their views of leadership?
Napolitano: What I’ve seen this last year amongst students is cynicism about politics and government in general. I think the toxicity of the presidential campaign has contributed to that a lot, and a sense among students of they want to do big important things and they don’t equate that with getting into government or public service or actual electoral politics … I hope it’s something that ameliorates over time because you need good people in these really key jobs in government or university leadership or wherever.
DeRuy: In the last several months, with the chancellor of UC Davis, you felt, and many people felt, that some of what she’d done was not appropriate and that stepping down was the correct thing to do, but was the fact that she was one of not many women in that leadership position and…
Napolitano: And an engineer
DeRuy: Yes, and with her gone, there’s one less woman in a leadership role where there weren’t many to begin with. Did that influence your thinking on the issue?
Napolitano: Not in that way, but it is regrettable because you’re exactly right to point out that she was one of a small number. But in that particular instance, it was questions of misjudgment and candor, and she was held accountable for that and so I don’t think gender had anything to do with those issues.
DeRuy: If Hillary Clinton is elected, she’s committed to a cabinet with at least 50 percent women. If she happens to call, would you be interested in returning to Washington and in what capacity?
Napolitano: Look, I get asked that question a lot. I’m glad for her commitment, you know, I just prefer not to answer questions on the “what if?” She needs to get elected, and I’m pretty committed to the University of California.
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