diversity minority

Your faculty diversity could lead to innovation

TIAA Institute report finds slight gains in African American and Latino faculty over past two decades

Diversity among faculty in higher education institutions in America has made only small improvements in the past two decades, according to a new report released by the TIAA Institute. Efforts to increase faculty diversity can yield benefits–after all, diversity advocates have for years observed how diversity can lead to increased institutional innovation.

While the proportion of African American, Latino, and Native American faculty has increased slightly, most of the gains have been in non-tenure track positions, according to “Taking the Measure of Faculty Diversity,” a study by Martin J. Finkelstein, Valerie Martin Conley and Jack H. Schuster.

The report provides a comprehensive breakdown of the faculty demographics of America’s higher education system and notes that the current transformation of the faculty model has complicated efforts to increase diversity.

While underrepresented minorities held 12.7 percent of faculty positions in 2013, up from 8.6 percent in 1993, they hold only 10.2 percent of tenured positions. Similarly, women now hold 49.2 percent of total faculty positions but just 37.6 percent of tenured positions.

(Next page: How academic appointments have been dramatically redistributed)

“This report goes into deep detail with which to assess the state of diversity and inclusion in our nation’s higher education faculty,” said Stephanie Bell-Rose, Senior Managing Director and Head of the TIAA Institute. “The report allows us to see where diversification efforts have succeeded and where much work still remains. Colleges and universities must make note that changing faculty models have made it even more challenging to bring much-needed diversity to our campuses.”

“In recent decades the American faculty has evolved from a predominantly white male enclave to an increasingly diverse workforce—-by race, ethnicity, gender, and country of birth. These changes are ongoing throughout higher education—-as evident in different types of institutions, academic fields, faculty rank, and tenure status,” the authors said. “As our Faculty Diversity report underscores, the percentage of change most often has been very substantial. But the actual number, say, of underrepresented minorities or women in some academic fields, remains quite small. We believe that further efforts to diversify the faculty are imperative and should be intensified.”

The report has found that central reality of the current era is that academic appointments have been dramatically redistributed, and women and underrepresented minorities continue to be limited within that redistribution. The decreasing number of available tenure-track career jobs, along with the wider availability of part-time and otherwise more circumscribed work roles, has a direct impact on the future for academics.

“If we look at, for example, prestigious liberal arts and research universities, if these institutions continue to seek leaders from among the professor ranks for positions such as deans and provosts, it stands to reason that more needs to be done to ensure that the talent pool is diverse,” Martin Conley said.

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Laura Ascione