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Women in Higher Education: 7 Deans Share Insights and Advice

University Leaders Reflect on Women’s History Month
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Dean Emily Miller Bonney
Emily Miller Bonney

Pollak Library
Dean Emily Miller Bonney

Emily Miller Bonney, professor of liberal studies, stepped into her role as library dean in 2018. She is vice chair of the Council of Library deans for the California State University system and will chair the group next year.

She was a long-serving member and former chair of the Academic Senate. In recognition of her role in shared governance, she is a recipient of the Faculty Leadership in Collegial Governance Award. Before joining the university in 1995, she had a career in law and spent a decade as a litigator before accepting the tenure-track position. Miller Bonney earned a doctorate in classical art and archaeology from New York University and a doctorate in law from UCLA.

What is the library doing to advance women to become leaders in their field? 

In many ways, librarianship and information sciences remain outstanding fields for women to attain important positions. At the library, we are working to make sure that women have the same opportunities as men. We provide support for those women who are interested in participating in leadership programs and we encourage women to engage professionally at all levels. Because the librarians are 50-50 men and women, there are fewer issues with opportunities for women. We also encourage women to lead our important committees and one of the associate deans is a woman.

What is one example of an obstacle you personally encountered — and overcame?

I’ve actually had a couple of career paths, and certainly, in my legal career there was no question that I was expected to work harder than my male colleagues. One interesting barrier when I returned to teaching was that because I was returning after time spent in law, the questions I encountered in the recruitment process were more intense than they were for my younger colleagues. The other obstacle I encountered repeatedly in leadership positions was that whenever I made a recommendation, the group would only agree to adopt it after one of my male colleagues had repeated the recommendation.

What advice do you have for female students interested in pursuing library professions?

This remains a women’s field and I remain convinced that the key for any woman is always to walk through a door of opportunity that opens. Be confident that you can take on whatever is in question. And be authentic — be the person you are. In general, I think this is a remarkable time to be a woman, and in educational leadership, more generally.

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