With only 26 percent of leadership positions being filled by women, Board of Trustees (BOT) members Leigh Fanning and Angela Moss have stepped up to fill these roles at East Carolina University.
Associate Director for the Women and Gender office Ashley Cleland said it is important to have a variety of perspectives in university, education and educational leadership. She said women represent 57 percent of college students nationally but only 26% of leadership positions such as chancellors, BOT and board of governors members.
Cleland said 57 percent of the higher education student body nationwide is women. She said women fill 30 percent of trustees seats at private universities and 28% of trustees seats at public universities nationally.
Cleland said she thinks it is important for a board to be reflective of the entire student population it’s serving. She said when a campus has a variety of perspectives it is stronger.
“I think we’re ultimately able to serve folks better when a variety of perspectives are heard and that increases our ability to attract students of a variety of walks of life and make sure they feel very welcome and like they’re apart of our university,” Cleland said.
Cleland said it's important that people have leaders that look like them and have similar backgrounds as them to look up to.
There are 21,000 board seats held by men in private companies in the United States and only 5,000 are held by women, Cleland said. She said this should increase because the majority of higher education students are women. Women additionally make up a higher percentage of consumer choices, she said.
ECU BOT member, Leigh Fanning recently retired and sold her business, R.A. Jeffrey’s Distributing in February which was the largest and oldest distributor of Anheuser-Busch in North Carolina. The company’s main products were Budweiser and Bud Light. The business covered 36 counties. R.A Jeffrey’s was a family-owned business that had been in Fanning's family since 1923.
“I am struggling like every mother, balancing work, life and family. So I’m right there doing that now,” Fanning said. “Being a trustee is balancing my work life, where I am, I’ve enjoyed being on the board for (the) last four years, and I look forward to the next four years.”
Fanning said ECU takes the majority of her time, but “there are a lot of great things going on at ECU.” She said she tries to attend as many events and graduations on campus as possible to stay in touch with campus life.
When Fanning was welcomed onto BOT she was replacing Deborah Davis who had finished serving her term on the board.
Angela Moss is now serving with Fanning on the board. Vern Davenport is the Chair of the board and Fielding Miller is the Vice-Chair. Fanning and Moss are the only women serving on the board, according to the ECU BOT website.
Fanning said the board hasn’t had to make any decisions where it’s had to take gender into account. She said it's important to have women on the BOT because people “want a diversified board of perspectives coming in at all angles.”
She said she had been a member of the pirate club since the company established its second warehouse in Greenville. She was a college representative for the company when she attended ECU. The company had contributed to many of ECU’s athletics projects.
Fanning said R.A Jeffrey’s has contributed to many athletics projects at ECU over the course of 20-25 years which led to her joining the BOT.
Fanning said there are many diversified boards at ECU that have women such as the board of visitors, board of alumni and the many volunteers who have graduated and contribute to ECU financially and with their time and energy. Fanning said, in the future, she would like to see more diversity at ECU and all universities.
Head Chairman of the Board of Trustees Vern Davenport said in 2018 the student body was almost 60% female students. He said as a board it is important for it to be properly represented, and the women’s perspectives are brought to the board so their issues and concerns are appropriately identified.
“I think in all cases you want to have, you desire to have your boards represent the constituency in which they are serving. In the case of our board (of trustees) and East Carolina University, we have almost 60 percent women in our student body population, having females on our board is very important,” Davenport said.
Davenport said Leigh Fanning and Angela Moss are both “very passionate pirates.” He said they’re committed to ECU and have “demonstrated it with their service to the university over the years.” He said they have been successful in their professional endeavors and are great mentors.
Trustee, Angela Moss served on the BOT when she was a former student body president. Davenport said Moss has experience about “what the challenges are and issues are in representing a student body population.”
Davenport said he has been on the Board of Trustees for seven years and the board values the SGA President's participation. He said the SGA Presidents have been “unbelievable outstanding” and have done a “terrific job” or representing the university and the student body.
Davenport said Moss has been very active in the ECU community since graduating, serving on multiple boards such as the foundation's board and board of visitors. Moss was Chair of the Board of Visitors, Chair of The Alumni Board and Vice Chair of the Foundation Board, according to her BOT biography.
Davenport said Fanning is very passionate about the university, very committed to economic development and economic growth in the east, very hardworking, engaged and knowledgeable.
“In addition to being hardworking, she (Fanning) participates, she goes to a ton of stuff, she’s not looking for any limelight, she’s about getting results,” Davenport said.
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