Diversifying Higher Education Faculty



According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014 there were more than 20 million children under 5 years old living in the United States, and 50.2 percent of them were minorities. These children make up the future generations of college students in the United States.  Colleges today are already beginning to reflect these changing demographics of the U.S. population. The U.S. has become a diverse population and consequently there is a change in demographics of college students.  Student bodies are no longer composed of primarily male, white students, so the faculty that teaches the diversified student population should no longer be composed of primarily white males. Between 2000 and 2013, the percentage of college students who were Black rose from 11.7 to 14.7 percent, and the percentage of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college increased from 21.7 percent to 33.8 percent .With the continuous increase of minorities in college, one would think that diversity would also be seen in the faculty that is teaching these students. However, in the fall of 2013, of all full-time faculties in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, 79 percent were White, 6 percent were Black, 5 percent were Hispanic, and 10 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander. Of the 79 percent white faculty, only 26 percent were women. Recognizing these percentages as a problem is the first step to changing the demographics of faculty to reflect today’s diverse college student population. There is a clear lack of diversity within faculty that is teaching an increasingly diverse college student population.


So why the big push for a more diverse faculty? Diversity in the workplace fosters innovation and competitiveness in a business and at the end of the day, a college or university is a business.  With the increase in recruitment of diverse students, colleges will benefit from having faculty that represents the diversity that they promote. Prospective students looking for a diverse college will be more enticed by a university that not only has a diverse student population, but a diverse faculty as well. A university can appear more welcoming when the diversity of the study body is also represented in the faculty. Moreover, for universities who wish to excel in research, it is believed that having diverse faculty engage in research can lead to better and more innovative research outcomes. Research groups with different backgrounds provide unique insights and perspectives. Universities on the forefront of innovative research will be sure to incorporate diverse faculty throughout the research process.


Besides benefiting the business side of a university, diverse faculty can benefit a university’s students as well. Various researches provide evidence of the importance of a diverse learning environment. Improved learning outcomes are increased by not only a diverse student, but with a diverse faculty as well, according to national studies. Students can benefit greatly from exposure to diverse perspectives in the classroom. Though the United States is becoming increasingly diverse, there are still many people who hold prejudices against those who are different from them. Including diverse faculty with different cultural backgrounds will help to eliminate any stereotypes or prejudices that students might have formerly believed. A diverse faculty has the capability to mold the culture of the classroom to match the current, real world that the students are a part of.  Increased critical thinking, student leadership, willingness to examine one’s own perspective, and exposure to new perspectives are all possible benefits of having a diverse faculty. The result of this is the production of students with a competitive edge, more prepared for leadership and professional competitiveness in multicultural America or the global community.


Along with diverse faculty benefiting a college’s business success, research collaboration, and student’s global understandings, providing diverse faculty has been shown to increase the success of minority students.  Minority students tend to have more comfortable and positive relationships with faculty of the same ethnic or racial background.  Multiple studies show that minority students can often feel isolated or unwelcome in predominately white universities. By diversifying the faculty to match the diverse student population, there is a better chance of everyone in the student population feeling welcome and comfortable in their learning environment.


The fact of the matter is that the United States will continue to be a melting pot of diverse populations; continuously introducing new and different cultures, ideas, and beliefs. Colleges can benefit greatly from having their faculty match the changing demographics of today’s college students. Once a university has recognized the need for diversifying their faculty to match the changing demographics of their student population, they may begin the steps to do so.  First, a university can develop and implement a clear diversity plan for hiring diverse faculty. To do so successfully, it is important to educate hiring committee about this institutional diversity mission and plan. Protocols should be established for the search and hiring process. Collaboration with advocacy groups serving underrepresented minorities can help in promoting a diverse faculty. Mostly importantly, regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnic background, hire candidates who will fit in with the same values and beliefs held by the university and their student population.


Sources and Further Reading:


Back to School Statistics


Diversifying the Faculty


Characteristics of Postsecondary Faculty


Written By: O. Greendyk