OPINION: Another Golden boy becomes university president? Forgive me for not cheering


Morgan Anderson

New President Jay Golden speaks to sophomore Drue Owen after his public address on Thursday, Oct. 31 in the RSC.

I expected things to change by now. In the 90s, it seemed like anything was possible for smart and hard-working go-getter women. Two decades later, my faith that the need for glass-ceiling breakers would no longer be necessary in my lifetime is not dead — but it’s on life-support. 

My university has picked its next president, and guess what? It’s a dude. 

It’s not overt, intentional sexism that’s to blame. A quiet but implicit sexism called experience is the culprit. Experience has become a systematic form of sexism.

I’m sure Jay Golden is a decent man. But that’s the thing; he’s a man. Like it or not, Golden is a golden boy. Stack exchange defines golden boy as “A popular or successful person, especially in sport or business.”

Golden’s yet another man who’s moved with ease from one elite, well-paid position of authority to the next because he has previous experience in top positions — positions acquired because he was previously head of another program or business. 

Experience has become the justification for hiring a man because men have previously been hired. Their experience, particularly at the executive administrative level, makes them the most qualified candidates. 

It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. 

That experience doesn’t come easy for females. Women aren’t getting promoted to top management and leadership positions overall. This doesn’t set them up to be top-dog later in life. 

Data from a 2018 PayScale research study on how men get promoted compared to women shows that at the start of their careers, men and women tend to work at similar job levels. Throughout their careers, men move into higher level roles at significantly higher rates than women.

“By mid career, men are 70% more likely to be in executive roles than women. By late career, men are 142% more likely to be in VP or c-suite roles,” the study reads. 

C-suite refers to the executive-level managers within a company. Common c-suite executives include chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), and chief information officer (CIO).

Almost a quarter of college and university presidents — 23.9% in 2016 — held presidential or chief executive officer positions in their job before their current presidency. That’s up from 19.5% in 2011, reports the latest version of the American College President Study from the American Council on Education (ACE). 

Colleges and universities are prioritizing c-suite experience when hiring new presidents. But because presidents have historically been white men, the emphasis on that narrow definition of experience comes at a cost to women and minorities. 

The most popular career path to the presidency continues to be through academic administration, as ACE reports — 42.7% of university presidents said their most recent prior position was as a chief academic officer, provost, dean, or other senior executive in academic affairs.

While Golden may not have been hired by Wichita State because he’s a man, due to his gender, he’s moved up the ranks in ways that most women can only dream of. That’s set him up for decade after decade of professional success.  

As previously reported by The Sunflower the search for WSU’s president was closed, so we don’t know how many prospective presidents were considered or what percentage were male. 

Steve Clark, who chaired the search committee charged with reviewing candidates and selecting finalists, said the committee considered a “very robust” pool of candidates. He said they strongly considered one woman in particular, but she didn’t measure up in terms of qualifications, among other things.

“Diversity was certainly a priority, but not to the extent that — we were looking for one thing and one thing only, and that is the most well-qualified candidate for the job,” Clark said.

If those qualifications mean executive experience, you can see the problem. Golden is currently the vice chancellor of research, economic development and engagement at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. In addition to his administrative role, he’s a tenured full professor in the engineering, marketing and supply chain departments. He also started an engineering services company in Arizona.

No women made the short list of three to five presidential finalists, Clark admitted. 

One hundred percent of the 13 previous university presidents were men. Ninety-four percent of the 84 presidents and chancellors at Kansas’ six state universities have been men. 

Jay Golden has gone from executive role to executive role. He’s a golden boy.

So on his inauguration day, please forgive me for not cheering. It’s hard to be excited about another white male getting to the top, because it isn’t about one man or one university — it’s about all the ways the women suffer professionally within academia because of their gender. 

If Wichita State is going to give golden girls a fighting chance, they’re going to have to start at the top and face the facts. Their idea of “qualified” is contingent on a sexist design that places c-suite experience at the top of the pile. It’s time to diversify and re-prioritize.

If the regents need assistance, give me a call. I’d be happy to serve as the chief presidential search officer.