While creating and supporting a diverse student population has been a priority for colleges and universities over the past several years, many schools are now turning their focus to fostering a diverse faculty to meet their changing student demographics.
A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer highlighted the disparity that routinely exists between these groups, examining Pennsylvania and New Jersey in particular and their overrepresentation of white faculty. Even historically black colleges and universities are not immune to this gap as they see more non-black students enrolling as freshmen.
And these divergences are reflected in the national data as well.
A Look at the Numbers
As of 2013 (the most recent year for which comprehensive data has been made available by the U.S. Department of Education), faculty at post-secondary campuses were:
- 78 percent white
- 6 percent black
- 4 percent Hispanic
- 10 percent Asian/Pacific Islander
- >1 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native
- 54 percent male
- 46 percent female
The predominance of white faculty only increases in the higher reaches of education, with 84 percent of college professors being white. Meanwhile, only 60 percent of college students are white.
And while women have made tremendous in-roads into academia, they still trail behind in tenured positions, representing only 37.5 percent of these roles.
Why Does Diversity Matter?
Some of the most frequently cited advantages of a diverse faculty are…
Student engagement and retention
By creating a diverse faculty, your school can encourage increased success among groups that have been traditionally underrepresented on campus. When students see themselves reflected in the makeup of your staff, they are often encouraged to reach for higher standards of performance.
One survey of more than 1,000 undergraduates conducted for the PhD Project found that among minority students, 96 percent reported that studying under minority professors had a positive impact on their education.
Similarly, a survey of more than 1,200 faculty members in doctoral-granting science and engineering departments revealed that women faculty played a key, if not critical role, in the success of female graduate students in these fields. Similarly, female undergraduate students are more likely to take on a leadership role — even when partnered with male students — when a female role model is present.
These studies also found that a diverse faculty can help improve retention rates among minority student populations.
Improved classroom discussions
Research compiled by the American Association of University Professors revealed that college faculty widely believe that improving classroom diversity broadens the scope of classroom discussions and strengthens their overall quality.
Of the faculty surveyed, 69 percent held that diversity was critical to encouraging students to examine their own perspectives. And over 70 percent of respondents ranked classroom diversity as important for exposing students to new concepts and ideas.
Better preparation for the “real” world
The demographics of “corporate America” have been changing dramatically over the past few decades. And by exposing your students to new ideas and groups of people you can help them acclimate to this shifting landscape.
In fact, according to the PhD Project survey previously mentioned, 69 percent of responding students believed that they were better prepared to work in a corporate business environment having taken a class taught by a minority professor.
What Can Your Campus Do to Promote a Diverse Faculty?
Given the obvious advantages of a diverse campus, there are a number of measures your school can take.
Reevaluate your hiring policies with a view towards diversity. Consider posting open positions in more places, allowing your school to draw from a broader pool of candidates. And once resumes have been collected, remove names, genders, and other identifying information to reduce the likelihood that unconscious biases play a role in hiring decisions.
Provide education and training to help your staff and faculty create a more inclusive workplace that will attract more diverse candidates and retain existing staff.
Work with outside consultants to evaluate current school policies for any structures that could be unintentionally discriminatory. If minority faculty are routinely being left behind when it comes to promotions or tenure, they likely will look for a more opportune campus.
The benefits of diversity have long been recognized in the corporate world, leading to increased sales and greater market share among other advantages. And these same principles of greater innovation and performance are often reflected when diversity is embraced among educators.
To learn more about how we can help you promote diversity and inclusion on your campus with online training, fill out the form on the right to request a demo of our services.