Local News

In Triangle, Academic Glass Ceiling Has Been Shattered

Posted May 7, 2000

— The role of women in the business world is evolving quickly. Women are no longer limited to executive assistant. Instead, they are running corporations. Some women are making their mark on Education, right here in the Triangle.

Maureen Hartfordis making strides at Meredith College. In 108 years, the all-woman college had never been run by a woman. Last year, Hartford became the first.

Just down the road,Marye Anne Foxis also breaking new ground as the first female chancellor at N.C. State University.

Two powerful positions. Two successful women.

They are part of a growing movement -- women taking charge, redefining what it means to be a leader.

"There are so many fields that have room for growth for women in them," Hartford says.

She has been in higher education for 25 years, and admits the road to success was not always smooth.

"It is hard to put the pieces together," she acknowledges.

Finding a balance between personal and professional lives can be tough. Making others understand can be even tougher.

"They had so translated my role as a professional in this group, that they really didn't see me as someone who also had the responsibility of shopping and cooking, buying presents for family and being in that role I think women have historically been in," she says.

Hartford says she has had to give up some free time.

Calendars rule. And life with husband Jay is sometimes limited to meeting on the run.

Marye Ann Fox says she has sacrificed little raising three sons and excelling in a field largely dominated by men. Balancing the two has made her more organized and efficient.

"I hope it's inspirational to give the very clear answer [to] can women succeed at the very highest level. That's happening," Fox says.

And it is clearly happening in the world of higher education. There are 3,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. In 1985, there were only 350 female presidents, now there are almost double that number. Seven of those women are right here in the Triangle.

Molly Broadis president of the UNC system. Laura Bingham heads Peace College. St. Augustine's College has Diane Suber as its leader. At Louisburg College, there is Rosemary Gillet-Karam. With seven years as president of Duke University, Nan Keohane has the most experience at the top.

Why so many women in such a concentrated geographic area? Hartford believes success breeds success. She credits Keohane with opening the door.

"She did it so well, people thought 'Oh, wow. We might think about having a woman in another position,'" Hartford says.

So what is their advice to other women?

Take risks. Do not be afraid to fail. And remember to enjoy yourself along the way.

"Do what you love and be open to new possibilities and work hard at it," Hartford advises.

Both Hartford and Fox have taken up what was once thought of as a man's sport: the game of golf. They say it is a great way to network and to raise money.

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