Editor’s Note: Ask Katehi is a weekly column where students get a chance to ask Chancellor Katehi questions.
How do you feel about being the first female chancellor at UC Davis, as well as one of the few women leading a university at all? What advice do you have for young women who want to pursue careers that are traditionally performed by men? What adversity did you have to overcome?
I am very honored and proud to be the first female chancellor of UC Davis. As an undergraduate student in Greece, I didn’t even know that universities had chancellors, let alone that a woman could be one. Today, I am one of only 16 female chancellors or presidents of universities in the prestigious 61-member Association of American Universities, or AAU. The number of women leaders has grown since my undergrad days, but clearly, there is room for improvement.
I grew up on a small island in Greece and had dreams of becoming an electrical engineer – a field dominated by men. In my hometown, we had no library and no other woman had ever gone to college. When I graduated from high school, I was determined to pursue my dream. I never imagined the obstacles I would have to overcome because I was a woman.
At the National Technical University of Athens, I was one of only two women in a class of 190. As an engineering student at NTUA and as a graduate student at UCLA, I didn’t have female mentors to look to for support because there were few women in my field at the time. But each time someone told me I couldn’t do something, I vowed to prove him or her wrong – and I always did.
I encourage more students – particularly women and those from underrepresented groups – to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics because by doing so, you are helping to improve quality of life. Young women need to know they are capable of pursuing any career, even those dominated by men. And I believe it is critical that these women have female mentors to help guide them along the way.
Do you have a question for the chancellor? E-mail email@example.com.