Taylor Anderson, Courtney Crell, Anthony LaRosa, Dylan Rice, Oscar Rosado and Alyssa Watson
Only 30 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities have women as presidents, according to a 2017 study by the American Council on Education. Lorain County Community College found a spot in the trend-setting group, thanks to Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D., who took
the reins of the college in 2016. Ballinger, as a junior in high school, wrote a career paper on public affairs. That experience motivated her to pursue leadership roles and eventually become the president of LCCC.
Ballinger is not the only woman to occupy a leadership role at LCCC. Among the top 23 top executives and administrators at LCCC, 16 (70 percent) are women, which is a 20 percent increase from 2010, according to the data provided by the college’s Human Resources Department. There are two women vice presidents out of our; five women deans out of six; eight women directors out of 13 in addition to the president.
Ballinger, who still keeps the high school career paper, said she never felt any gender bias in several executive positions she had held at LCCC. She was also inspired by late Supreme Court Judge Ruth Ginsberg who had said, “Fight for the things
that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
“Dr. Ballinger has taken our college to the next level,” said Jonathan Dryden, Ph.D., who is the provost and vice president Academic Affairs. “That is a tribute to her strong leadership. It is not because she is a woman but because she is an excellent leader and the college is very fortunate to have someone of her caliber in that role.”
Dryden said he is very proud of the women leaders at LCCC. “We have a fantastic leadership. Not just in the academic area, but also in the executive leadership area. We have a lot of strong, creative, and talented women leaders. I don’t think they are great leaders because they’re women or that their leadership qualities are defined by their gender. They do a great job here because they are excellent leaders, period. It just so happens, they are women.”Tracy Green, vice president of Strategic and Institutional Development, echoed similar views.
Green, who was an LCCC student, said she became vice president not “because of being a woman. I worked hard to get to this position.”
Women’s success, Green said, depends on “where they want to make a career. Women are in positions of power in many different places.”
Samantha Marx, director of Client Service at Employers Resource Council (ERC) based in Highland Heights, lauded the women’s leadership roles at the college.
“LCCC has won our NorthCoast 99 award several times in the program’s 20-plus year history. Their commitment to a great workplace for all has been commendable. The NorthCoast 99 Award honors top workplaces throughout Northeast Ohio based on their workplace practices,” Marx noted in an email.
Kelly Zelesnik, dean of Engineering, Business and IT Technology, asserted the dean’s positions were not given to women over men. They were given to the person that best fits the qualifications of the job, regardless of their gender, according to Zelesnik.
Zelesnik said she remembers two unsavory experiences at a private company where she had worked. The first time, a male coworker told to her face and in front of their client that he “didn’t think women made very good engineers.”
In the other instance, a new male coworker revealed his salary. She then found out he was making “substantially” more money than her even though she had more experience, and both had the same education.
Zelesnik started her journey at LCCC as an engineering student, and after graduation worked in the private sector until she came back to LCCC to teach. When the dean’s position opened up, she fit the skill set required.
LCCC is eons ahead of other colleges in gender equality, according to Brenda Pongracz, Ed.D., who is the dean of Arts and Humanities and interim provost of the University Partnership. There are many areas where the college is advanced that have nothing to do with gender. “LCCC is setting an example for women that they can be successful.”
However, Pongracz said she had experienced challenges from students. For example, they may speak to her with less respect than they would with a man in her position. But such incidents are few and far between, she said.
Marisa White, vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Services, said, “It (gender equity) is really important for us because we serve such a diverse group of students. It’s important for our leadership to reflect on them.”
White, a mother of a 3-year-old boy, said, “There are certain expectations of being a mother by society. Having the traditional mother role definitely adds an extra layer of complexity to an already very busy job.”
White establishes respectful relationships with her peers. She cautions that being too strict or too emotional could lead to negative outcomes.
“We don’t necessarily have to work harder than men, but we have to be more mindful about how we are creating relationships with people at work,” she said. “Holding on to the connectivity of feminine qualities could be an asset when coming to leadership. It allows us to drive changes in a more human way.”