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Celebrating Herstory: Join the conversation with ASU's 3 female executive vice presidents

Breaking Barriers: Conversations on the path to leadership
April 01, 2021

Arizona State University is on the verge of making "herstory." Soon the university will for the first time have three women in the position of executive vice president.

Maria Anguiano was named executive vice president of Learning Enterprise in December 2020. Prior to that, she served as senior vice president of enterprise strategy beginning in fall 2018.

Nancy Gonzales has been named as the university’s next executive vice president and university provost and will begin her tenure on July 1. Most recently, Gonzales served as dean of natural sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Sally C. Morton serves as executive vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise, a position she began on Feb. 1. Morton came to ASU from Virginia Tech where she served as dean of the College of Science, as well as interim director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

In honor of this milestone and of Women’s History Month, all three leaders will participate in a virtual event titled “Breaking Barriers: Conversations on the path to leadership” from 8 to 9 a.m. April 9, via Zoom. The event will feature a student-moderated conversation with Anguiano, Gonzales and Morton, who will share their insights on what it means to break barriers and how students, staff and faculty can chart their own course for leadership.

This event is presented by Knowledge Enterprise, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, Educational Outreach and Student Services and the ASU SDG5 Coalition. It is part of the “Celebrating Women’s Empowerment at ASU” event series showcasing ASU’s initiatives and partnerships advancing Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls. The series included Gender Equality Under the Law & WE Empower U.N. SDG Challenge Launch and the Impact of Global Women’s Leadership for the fourth Industrial Revolution.

Former U.N. Ambassador Amanda Ellis, who was the first woman to head the New Zealand Development Agency and also served as lead specialist of gender for the World Bank now serves as director of global partnerships for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, one of the co-sponsors of this event. In explaining why it’s important to highlight women in leadership like Anguiano, Gonzales and Morton, Ellis quotes renowned poet Maya Angelou: “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

“Angelou’s words remind us how important it is to have diverse positive role models to help us envision better and more inclusive futures,” Ellis said. “While the diversity dividend has been well-documented, demonstrating a 6% higher return on investment where female representation in senior roles is 30%, the data is disappointing: only 1 in 4 parliamentarians is female, a third of global boards have no female representation at all and only 7% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.”

It’s clear there is more work to be done when it comes to female representation in leadership positions across industries and across the globe, but Ellis believes ASU is working to be the change that the world needs to see. For example, ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and EdPlus partnered with global organizations including the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the United Nations and the World Bank on the SDG5 Training for Parliamentarians and Changemakers to accelerate policy change that advances gender equality around the word.

“As the top university in the U.S. for both innovation and United Nations Sustainable Development Goal impact, ASU can have a powerful multiplier influence through both demonstration effect and practical impact,” Ellis said. “Despite women now comprising more graduates than men globally, higher education leadership is notoriously male; ASU is demonstrating commitment to disrupting those prejudices.”

Toni Farmer-Thompson, deputy vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services, another event co-sponsor, feels ASU is leading by example when it comes to modeling female empowerment in leadership.

“I believe the recent promotion and restructure of the organization (ASU) resulting in the appointment of three women EVPs by President Crow acts as a phenomenal example not only for higher education but organizations at large,” Farmer-Thompson said. “Additionally, ASU has a number of assets and activities devoted to advancing and empowering women. It will be important to curate and collaborate transforming these efforts into equity accelerants.”

Farmer-Thompson hopes that people walk away from this event feeling inspired “to dream, plan and execute on their God-given talent” and “to commit to creating greater awareness and action around the development and proliferation of talented women.”

To join in the conversation with these dynamic and inspiring leaders on April 9, visit the event page to register and learn more.

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