Diversity goes beyond colour and ethnic backgrounds, also including customs, cultural and religious experiences, political views, sexual orientation, and more.
The very definition of ‘diverse’, according to Cambridge Dictionary, is “including many different types of people or things”.
Universities are constantly encouraged to employ a diverse faculty – and for good reason.
In today’s global market, people are travelling more, and working abroad has become a lot more accessible. People of all walks of life can easily travel across borders and boundaries to exchange ideas and share knowledge with eachother.
Plus, the growth of online programmes makes it easier for remote faculty members to engage with students all over the world.
It has thus become easier for universities to make their faculty more diverse, yet many still haven’t fully embraced just how important it is.
Here is why having a diverse faculty is extremely important and beneficial not only to students, but also institutions and faculty members themselves.
The importance of role models
Students need role models and positive relationships with teachers. This gives them a sense of belonging and comfort, meaning they will be able to study better and enjoy classes and academic experience.
When a student feels they have things in common with a teacher, they naturally feel more comfortable and can relate to them better.
According to the report, “Students can find security in knowing that there is someone at their school or on their campus that has their best interest in mind, that is looking out for them, and more importantly, someone who understands their culture and the different things about them.”
A study found that “when high dominant women are presented with a female leader model, they are more likely to take on the leadership role in the presence of a male partner than when they are presented with a male leader model.”
Students get more exposure
According to the report National Viewpoint: The Importance of Hiring a Diverse Faculty, “a diverse faculty will allow students to be exposed to a wide array of ideas, cultures, and individuals. In a diverse student population students need to be exposed to teachers who are like them. They need to see people who have an impact on their lives, look like them, sound like them, and have similar life experiences.”
The more diverse a faculty, the more diverse the course content, curricular, teaching methods and scholarly ideas presented to students.
Students only stand to benefit positively from a faculty of diverse backgrounds that bring a range of their own experiences to the classroom, which has been shown to improve the effectiveness of teaching, as “Many studies and longstanding research show that a diverse faculty and student body lead to great benefits in education for all students.”
It’s not just limited to a small group of students that benefit from a diverse faculty, but actually a majority. A survey for the PhD Project found that 96 percent of minority students found that studying under minority professors had a positive impact on their education.
It prepares them for the world
In countries like the US, UK, Australia, and even in Asian countries like China and Singapore, the demographics are made up of all sorts of people.
When international students graduate and either go home or start work in their host country, they meet people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, ideologies, cultures, and so on.
Instead of getting culture shock, they would be more adjusted and prepared to deal with all kinds of people (and bosses!) if they’ve had enough exposure to a diverse faculty and student population.
Having a mix of different teachers shows them how to communicate and work with all types of people.
Less discrimination lawsuits
This is important for educators and institutions if they need another reason to have a diverse faculty.
According to the National Viewpoint: The Importance of Hiring a Diverse Faculty report, “Diversifying the faculty reduces the amount of discrimination claims. If educators of different cultural backgrounds are aware that the educational institution openly hires those of diverse cultures, they are more apt to want to work for the institution and least likely to feel discriminated against.”
So how can universities go about making their faculty more diverse? The report suggested that one way is to provide incentives and resources for diversity hires. “Such specific hiring programs should be carefully tied to any affirmative action plan, mission statement or particular educational need that is the basis for its existence.”
Perry Greene, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Adelphi University in New York, shared some tips with Inside Higher Ed.
He said it’s a group effort and the whole institution must be committed to creating a more diverse learning environment.
“A sincere institutional commitment to diversity and inclusivity requires engagement and collaboration with others on and off campus, including unit-level search committees, the provost’s office, the office of human resources, professional associations and doctoral programs.”
He also emphasised that it’s an ongoing effort and retaining diverse staff must not be overlooked.
“It makes little sense to recruit diverse faculty of color if they leave after only a few years (or even months). As a person of color, and having served in the faculty ranks, it is my experience that faculty of color often leave predominantly white institutions due to a lack of support and engagement with the institution.
“That can take many forms, including undesirable course assignments, a devaluing of their scholarship, poor support and collaboration on research efforts, and microaggressions in the work environment.”