The Demand for Diversity - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education



The Demand for Diversity - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Demand for Diversity - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher ...
February 4, 2009
The Demand for Diversity
By Anne Gallagher and Cathy A. Trower
Many new assistant professors prefer — and indeed, expect — a
diverse workplace. They desire diversity of thought and ideas as well
as of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and
socioeconomic background among their students and colleagues.
In our first two columns about what pre-tenure faculty members
want and need to be successful in academe, we focused on their
desire for clarity in tenure policies (The Chronicle, September 19,
2008) and on the importance they place on collegiality in their
departments (The Chronicle, November 4, 2008). Now we turn to
diversity, and specifically to race and ethnicity. In our faculty
surveys and interviews for the Collaborative on Academic Careers in
Higher Education (Coache) at Harvard University, we've found that
an institutional commitment to diversity is integral to creating a
welcoming and supportive culture for new faculty members.
But it's not enough to list diversity as an institutional value in a
mission statement or a strategic plan. As one assistant professor we
interviewed said, "My institution needs a commitment to diversity
that is seen and felt on the campus and not just read in a
document." Said another, "My institution remains steeped in the old
boys' network and its associated trappings. Attempts at diversity
seem superficial. The university needs to bring its culture regarding
gender, race, and sexual orientation into the 21st century."
At Coache, we measured a number of variables to assess the
workplace satisfaction of early-career academics. One of the factors
most highly correlated with success was the issue of institutional
"fit." The survey data suggest that your chances of earning tenure
and your decision to stay at an institution are affected by the
opportunities you have as an assistant professor to collaborate and
interact with senior mentors. As one unhappy survey respondent
wrote, "This place is racist, sexist, and tremendously homophobic.
I've stopped going into the office and I hardly talk to anyone. The
rewards and benefits given to my white, married male junior faculty
colleagues with families and me are very different. I don't feel like I
fit here at all."
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Our findings show that minority faculty members expressed less
satisfaction with nearly all of the climate variables we measured —
including the issue of fit — as compared with their white peers. Of
the 8,500 pre-tenure faculty members that Coache has surveyed, 17
percent of those in underrepresented minority groups said a lack of
diversity was one of the two worst aspects about working at their
institutions, surpassed only by compensation, cited by 19 percent.
We found more agreement between minority and white faculty
members on the issue of whether they considered the tenure process
to be clear and reasonable.
Those findings, taken together, suggest that it is not a lack of
understanding of the tenure process that is working against the
advancement of minority faculty members, but rather the
institutional culture, a key component of which is a true
commitment to diversity.
Colleges and universities share common challenges in attracting and
retaining assistant professors who are female or members of
minority groups, especially in fields where they are
underrepresented. Successful diversity campaigns require financial
support and leadership. As one administrator explained, "It's about
the message and the money." We offer here several strategies that
institutions might consider to recruit and develop a diverse faculty.
Offer visible leadership. The promotion of female and minority
scholars to leadership positions reinforces the message that
diversifying the faculty ranks is a campus priority. Prior to accepting
a position, many faculty of color seek to identify a network of
potential mentors. "When I was evaluating whether or not to come
to this institution," a minority faculty member said in an interview,
"I needed to feel that there was a community of women of color who
were professional and tenured, so I asked, 'Who's the highestranking woman? Who's the highest-ranking, African-American
person in the administration? Who are the minority full
Clearly define for search committees the meaning of "diverse
applicant pool." Provosts should provide each search committee
with a list of actions it must take to recruit a diverse pool. They
should also identify who will be responsible for carrying out each
step and create incentive systems, such as offering money to
departments that identify a top candidate from an underrepresented
minority group.
At Bowdoin College, for example, the dean's office helps
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departments seeking to attract a diverse pool of candidates in many
ways, such as suggesting new places where they can advertise the
position and contacting graduate schools to identify potential
candidates. Deans also organize debriefings after each search to
determine what worked well, and what didn't.
Recruit actively. Department chairs, search-committee members,
and other senior professors in the hiring department should
personally reach out to prospective female and minority candidates
and invite them to apply. At conferences, faculty members should
seek out graduate students who may be potential candidates and
review conference programs for promising young scholars and prize
winners. Senior scholars can show interest in newcomers to the
profession by attending their research talks and inviting them to the
campus for a visit or to attend a colloquium.
Tap into the network of minority scholars. One institution's
graduate students are another's junior faculty members. Use
directories — such as the Emerging Ph.D.'s Yearbook, published by
the Leadership Alliance, or the alumni directory of the Meyerhoff
Program — to identify promising scholars of color. Some research
universities have created postdoctoral programs for minority and
female academics as a means of addressing the pipeline problem.
Kenyon College, for example, has created a dissertation/teaching
fellowship to encourage minority scholars to consider pursuing a
career at a small college rather than at a university.
Create target-of-opportunity hires. Those are controversial, but they
get the job done. The idea is for the provost's office to finance
additional faculty lines to hire top minority prospects. Institutions
can also use the money to hire the spouses and partners of minority
hires. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill relies on
opportunity hires and cluster hires, financed through the provost's
office, to attract faculty members of different backgrounds to the
university. Brown University's target-of-opportunity hiring program
seeks to attract prominent or promising scholars who are also from
underrepresented minority groups (as well as women in the
sciences) and encourages departments to consider hiring those
candidates even when a tenure line is not open.
Educate search committees. Discuss tactics with search-committee
members for developing a broad and deep pool of applicants and
combating unconscious bias. Duke University's vice provost for
faculty diversity and development meets with search committees to
discuss ways to find candidates of color who may have been
overlooked, and how the committee can market the institution's
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strengths, such as flexible work arrangements and cross-disciplinary
research opportunities, to attract diverse talents. At the same time,
committees should be honest about the institution's drawbacks —
whether that means location, demographic makeup of the campus,
or cultural issues — during the search process. Recruiters should
explain what actions the institution has taken to deal with those
areas of concern.
But as has been said, time and again, recruiting is only one piece of
the puzzle. Institutions also have to make their new recruits feel
comfortable and welcome once they've been hired. And that is
especially important for female and minority scholars in fields
where they remain in low numbers. Some suggestions:
Ensure equal-opportunity mentoring. "It can be pretty isolating
when you're the only one," said one female assistant professor we
interviewed, "the only woman, the only junior faculty member, the
only African-American, whatever your particular 'only' is.
Sometimes you just want someone like you to talk to."
Relying too much on an informal mentor system can mean that
women and faculty of color are inadvertently overlooked. They may
struggle to find "someone like them," someone with whom they
share a natural affinity or feel comfortable approaching. That's why
formal programs remain important, especially ones that focus on
people who've found few opportunities to develop informal
relationships with senior colleagues — at least until a greater
number of female and minority scholars extend the benefits of
informal mentoring to all. The University of Virginia's Excellence in
Diversity Fellows program offers minority tenure-track faculty
members small grants, networking opportunities, and support for
teaching, research, and publishing. Black assistant professors who
belong to the Black Faculty Caucus at Duke University meet on a
regular basis with their black senior colleagues.
Showcase their work. Deans and department chairs can support the
development of an intellectually diverse community by setting aside
money for research groups, speaker series, and colloquia that
showcase the work of diverse groups of scholars. Departments
might invite scholars from other institutions, or include academics
from a range of departments in an effort to promote
interdisciplinary connections across the campus. One physics
chairman described his efforts to increase the number of women in
his department: "I set up a 'Women in Science' lecture program
where I invite distinguished women to visit; we partner with the
department of women's studies. Women visit, give a lecture or host
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a colloquium, and then spend a couple of days meeting with
students and faculty."
Understand that culture is personal. A senior faculty member
offered this advice to administrators on how to make their campuses
feel welcoming: "You need to be on the phone. It's not like you've
got a thousand black faculty members on campus. You can pick up
the phone and talk to all of them probably in an hour's time span.
Just say 'How are you doing? Is there anything you need? Are there
any issues?' It's not just recruiting. It's creating an environment
where black faculty members feel that this is a welcoming
environment and they want to spend their entire career here."
Some department chairs and administrators recognize and reward
faculty of color who carry additional service burdens — sitting on
extra committees and advising more than their share of students —
activities that cut into the time they could be devoting to research
and teaching.
As long as minority scholars remain a small segment of the faculty
population and continue to leave academe at rates greater than
white faculty members, there is no excuse for neglecting faculty of
color by overlooking the many small, but meaningful interactions
that lay the foundation for a culture that's welcoming to all.
Next up in this series, we will delve into another aspect of workplace
satisfaction highly valued by assistant professors: flexibility in their
schedules and career paths.
Cathy Trower is research director and Anne Gallagher is assistant
director of Harvard University's Collaborative on Academic
Careers in Higher Education. Coache is a group of colleges and
universities committed to gathering data that academic
administrators need to recruit, retain, and develop their faculty
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