AEC WOMEN’S NETWORK
The AEC Women’s Network is a national system of networks within each state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia with the goal of advancing and supporting women in higher education. Each state network is led by a state chair who works with institutional representatives and at least one presidential sponsor to develop programs that identify, develop, encourage, advance, link, and support (IDEALS) women in higher education careers within that state.
The state networks are linked to one another through their connection with the (AEC) and the AEC Women’s Network Executive Council, a group of senior women executives from across the country who serve as both mentors to the state chairs and as advisers to AEC on the overall functioning of the AEC Women’s Network. State chairs also benefit from the mentorship and advice from college and university presidents and chancellors who have agreed to serve as presidential sponsors.
The AEC Women’s Network facilitates the networking of women interested in pursuing leadership opportunities in higher education. A four-part structure—Network Executive Council, independent, state-based networks with state chairs, presidential sponsors, and institutional representatives—facilitates these connections, allows for sharing of best practices, particularly at the State Chairs Annual Conference, and enables local leadership training by the state networks.
With a grant from the Carnegie Corporation in 1977, AEC’s Office of Women in Higher Education (now AEC Leadership) founded the AEC National Identification Program (NIP), which is now known as the AEC Women’s Network. The purpose of the NIP was to address issues relating to women’s advancement in higher education leadership. It is a mission that is still relevant today, and one that is supported by our state networks across the nation. In 1977, California, New York, and Florida became the first states to create an AEC National Identification Program. Within a year, they were joined by Wisconsin, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. New Jersey followed shortly thereafter.
Five years later, the AEC Women’s Network became a state-based national program. The initial grant proposed creating state planning boards with representation reflecting the state’s higher education structure. A woman holding a senior-level administrative position at a college or university would lead the planning committee as the state chair. Working with a panel of advisors of men and women leaders within the state, the planning committee and state chair were expected to create effective strategies to identify and advance women into senior leadership positions within the state’s colleges and universities.
Over time, the state networks have developed organizational structures that best fit their particular state and their specific needs. Nonetheless, the structure of a planning board, a state chair, institutional representatives, and the support of college presidents remain the hallmarks of the AEC Women’s Network. The state networks are linked to one another through their affinity with the Inclusive Excellence Group and a national executive council composed of women executives who serve as both mentors to the state chairs and advisors to the staff.
Today, the Women’s Network Executive Council (WNEC) uses geographic locations to divide mentoring responsibilities for individual state networks among its members. The chair of the WNEC works directly with the director of AEC Leadership to coordinate activities. State chairs are also advised by college and university presidents who have agreed to serve as presidential sponsors for specific states.
In 1997, NIP was renamed the AEC National Network for Women Leaders in Higher Education. The office was renamed AEC Women’s Network in 2002.