Colleges and Universities That Engage in “Authentic” Diversity Practices

According to a study led by a scholar at the University of Michigan, higher education institutions that prioritize diversity both in employment numbers and in creating an inclusive climate lessen the psychological disparities among faculty of color.

There has been extensive research on organizational diversity initiatives that focus on either the number of minorities at a particular institution or the racial climate. This study evaluates these two concepts together, which helps determine if colleges and universities engage in “authentic” diversity practices.

For their study, the researchers examined a data set of 35,000 faculty members at public and private colleges and universities across the United States. The questionnaire asked about involved invisible labor (a feeling of having to work harder to be perceived as a legitimate scholar), stress and dissatisfaction with co-workers, factored numerical diversity (high or low) — based on the proportion of White faculty at a given institution — and climate diversity (positive or poor).

Racial disparities between faculty of color and White faculty for various psychological outcomes were smaller in authentic diversity institutions compared to those with a low numeric diversity/poor racial climate. An environment with fewer minorities and poor racial climate left many faculty of color feeling dissatisfied with White faculty, the study showed.

However, even when schools are authentic with diversity components, faculty of color still encounter challenges. Faculty from underrepresented groups in the study reported significantly more stress from discrimination and invisible labor than their White peers, suggesting an environment that might not be entirely inclusive.

“These results suggest that diversity climate may be the primary driver of mitigating psychological disparities between faculty of color and White faculty,” said lead author Emily Vargas, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Michigan. “However, it is necessary for institutions to authentically engage in diversity — by promoting both entities — to become more effective in reducing disparities.”

The full study, “Counting Heads vs Making Heads Count: Impact of Numeric Diversity and Diversity Climate on Psychological Outcomes for Faculty of Color,” was published in the journal Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. It may be accessed here.

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