Faculty Diversity Has Become a Popular Topic

diverse faculty higher educationDiversity in higher education has recently been a popular news media topic. On many campuses around the country, diversity-related issues – and especially faculty diversity – have led to student protests and demands for “ending systemic and structural racism on campus.”

Additionally, while the percentage of minorities as undergraduate students has increased, the number of minority faculty members hasn’t matched this rapid growth.

That’s why many institutions are working hard to address the issue of underrepresentation of minorities on the faculty.

And there are a host of reasons why faculty diversity is a worthwhile pursuit for higher education institutions, ranging from student needs, to expanding the institutional knowledge base, to improving how people think.

So let’s take some time and explore a few of these benefits in more detail.

Advantages of a Diverse Faculty

Diversity helps elevate everyone’s thinking

People often make the case that diverse organizations are smarter organizations, but where’s the proof? Fortunately, it’s a heavily researched topic that has been explored from all kinds of angles, and the research shows greater innovation from diverse groups compared to homogenous groups time and again.

Students need role models

When minority students look at the faculty across many of their schools they often don’t see people who may have faced similar life experiences, which can negatively impact how they view career possibilities. At the same time, many students may not have experience interacting with a minority in an instructional position or position of authority.

It’s a global society

Working with people from different cultural backgrounds and countries will be the norm for today’s students, so the perspectives of diverse faculty members can give them a leg up on interacting with people from different backgrounds.

Faculty members have their fingers on the academic pulse

Unlike diversity officers or student affairs officers, faculty members see the inner-workings of departments first hand. This perspective gives them a clearer sense of what’s happening in classrooms and across departments to promote or block diverse ideas and learning experiences. In other words, they not only bring new ideas and approaches to the institution, but they can help identify what’s potentially stifling diversity.

Strategies to Improve Diversity

Like anything, improving faculty diversity is about clear goals and a strategy. Institutions around the country have used an array of different approaches, ranging from forming committees to address diversity-related issues to creating diversity-related dean positions to trying new recruitment strategies. Some have even focused on better supporting minority students to help with recruitment.

The American Federation of Teachers has compiled a list of activities for promoting a diversity agenda, which includes the following suggestions:

  • Implementing a clear diversity mission and action plan
  • Promoting collaboration with institutions and advocacy groups serving underrepresented organizations
  • Educating hiring committees about the diversity mission
  • Helping members from underrepresented groups succeed professionally

While there’s no quick fix to increasing faculty diversity, the actions your institution takes will build on themselves, so the challenge is to create momentum.

A key first step can be making sure that people understand the value of a diverse faculty.

If your college or university is looking for diversity-related training, check out our top-rated online diversity course.