10 Things Colleges & Universities Can Do to Increase the Racial & Ethnic Diversity of Faculty
by: Joy Hightower
Although colleges and universities have experienced growing racial and ethnic diversity among its student population, faculty remain majority white. At nearly 10%, Asian Americans make up the second largest demographic group. In 2014, 13% of PhD recipients were Black, Latinx, or Native American. Yet, as full-time faculty only account for 4.9%, 2.8%, and .4%, respectively. The most common explanation is referred to as the “pipeline” problem, which suggests that institutions have low rates of minority faculty because there are so few minority PhD candidates to choose from. For example, in 2010, only 7.4% of doctorate degrees were awarded to Blacks, while 7.1% were awarded to Latinx. However, the pipeline is not the only problem; fewer Black and Latinx PhDs are hired than the percentage who have been conferred doctoral degrees. Hence, the problem of professoriate diversity is also a matter of recruitment, retention, and selection.
Institutions routinely publicize both the need and their commitment to hire diverse faculty, yet each year, the diversity numbers hover around the same dismal percentages. Here are 10 ways that departments can move the needle:
- Invest in Diversity. Institutions can create Fellowships for diverse Masters and PhD students, institutionalize diversity Postdocs, and match individual departments’ hiring of diverse faculty.
- Provide Departments with the tools they need to meet wider institutional goals. Faculty are not HR professionals, so train them in all things HR and diversity. Tailor these trainings to suit the different cultures, issues, and questions of departments.
- Establish partnerships with diversity-based organizations whose mission is to increase the number of diverse faculty. Non-profit organizations such as the McNair Scholars and Mellon Fellows program are not only a strong conduit for cultivating the talent of underrepresented minority undergraduate talent, but serves as a polished funnel to attract and recruit talent.
- Provide Mentorship to underrepresented minority graduate students. Do not wait until they are on the job market; it is a short-sighted approach to a long-range problem.
- Develop a faculty diversity strategy. Research has shown that most departments do not have one. Therefore, an understanding of the pipeline, how to build relationship with diverse candidates, or even how to develop a diverse pool are unmentioned/not sought (Bilimoria & Buch, 2010; Moody, 2004; G.A. Olson, 2007; Smith et al., 2004)
- Be more innovative than the convention of posting jobs ad, developing a short list, and interviewing top candidates. The problem with this approach is that it generally fails to result in a diverse applicant pool, let alone a diverse hire (Smith et al., 2004; Turner, 2002). Some alternative ways include writing a job description that is explicit about the department’s diversity efforts, target a “special hire,” electing a diverse search committee (Smith et al., 2004).
- Actively recruit to achieve a more diverse candidate pool. Passivity results in lack of diverse applicants and hires (Smith et al., 2004; Jackson, 2006).
- Retain diverse faculty, so that potential diverse hires feel they are applying to work in an inclusive workplace. Recruitment does not equal retention; retention addresses mentorship, departmental culture, and access to grants, for example.
- Departments must challenge their own stereotypes about diverse faculty. It results in the failure to target or recruit diverse faculty due to the belief that diverse faculty of color do not want to be at particular institutions or live in certain regions that lack diversity. And, as result, believe they will leave for a more diverse institution once making tenure (Moody, 2004; G.A. Olson, 2007; Smith et al., 2004; Turner, 2002).
- Hold an annual “State of Diversity” that features Deans, Chancellor, Provost and Department Heads. Diversity and Inclusion must be an ongoing conversation that includes stakeholders at every level. There is also the need to be consistently transparent about diversity numbers, and how they vary by department.
Bilimoria, D. and Kimberly Buch. 2010. “The Search Is On: Engendering Faculty Diversity Through More Effective Search and Recruitment.” Change: Magazine of Higher Learning.
Moody, JoAnn. 2004. Faculty Diversity: Problems and Solutions. New Ed edition. New York, NY: Routledge.
Olson, G.A. 2007. “Don’t Just Search, Recruit.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Smith, D. 2000. “How To Diversify the Faculty.” Academe. Washington, D.C.: American Association of University Professors.
Smith, D., Turner, C. Osei-Kofi, O., Richards, S. 2004. “Interrupting the Usual: Successful Strategies For Hiring Diverse Faculty.” The Journal of Higher Education.
Turner, C. 2002. Diversifying the Faculty: A Guidebook For Search Committees, 2nd. Edition. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges & Universities.
Williams, Damon A. and Katrina Wade-Golden. 2013. The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management. Steering, Virginia: Stylus Publishing.
 All percentages cited in this article were drawn from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, years 2011-2014.