When I read Marybeth Gasman’s piece addressing diversity among faculty last fall, it struck a cord. It is a complaint I have heard from students many times, and I have commiserated with colleagues near and far about the lack of women and people of color among our ranks.
It is troubling that at a time when women are receiving more university degrees than men (of nearly all types and at all levels), there remain significantly fewer women in term and ranked positions in academia. In fact, the higher up the ladder one goes (Instructor to Assistant to Associate to Full Professor), and the more prestigious the institution (community college to liberal arts college, to research institution to Ivy League), the fewer women there are among the faculty. The pay gap between female and male professors also remains significant.
The situation is even more startling for women of color. There are only a handful of black and Hispanic women at the Associate or Full Professor level on most campuses. And men of color are also underrepresented in the academy, with relatively few serving in advanced positions. The faculty data on gender and race in our colleges and universities is concerning.
We are becoming more and more aware of these discrepancies, yet it seems that higher education struggles to address the problem. Gasman’s statement that “there are not more people of color in the faculty, because we simply don’t want them” is particularly jarring and important. While there tends to be a general desire to enhance diversity among faculty, systemic and institutionalized practices remain in place that leave even the best intentioned of us limiting the pool of “acceptable” options, essentially perpetuating the problem. As Gasman explains, we have to think beyond our traditional ideas of how and what we view as acceptable academic training, subject choice and tenure path. We also have to be conscientious of the role those of us on hiring committees can play to broaden the applicant pool and hopefully contribute to a more diverse faculty.
Please read Gasman’s important article and let us know if you and your colleagues have found ways to enhance faculty diversity.