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A woman will lead Oxford University for the first time in its 785-year history

Louise Richardson broke an even thicker glass ceiling than Hillary Clinton is confronting.
Louise Richardson broke an even thicker glass ceiling than Hillary Clinton is confronting.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Oxford University, the storied British institution, has picked its next leader — and for the first time in 785 years, it will be led by a woman.

Louise Richardson, an expert on terrorism who currently leads St. Andrews University in Scotland, will be the first woman to serve as vice chancellor. (That's the equivalent of an American university president.)

Richardson's appointment is historic: Oxford picked its first vice chancellor in 1230 and had nearly seven centuries of uninterrupted male control. Women couldn't earn degrees there until 1920, the first woman became a full professor in 1948, and the university's colleges didn't go fully coed until 2008.

The most prestigious colleges in the US are doing slightly better: half of the colleges in the Ivy League are now led by women. Overall, though, women hold only about 25 percent of American college presidencies.

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