Let’s put it right. Colleges and universities have never been leaders or facilitators of social change. Often in these contexts, deep structural change is a long and continuous struggle. Instead, the preoccupation with higher education has increased To achieve numerical diversity goals, with a level of attention greater than that paid by other organizations and businesses, including some sports organizations that seek to be at the center of diversity. Colleges and universities are guided by compelling evidence of the educational benefits associated with a diverse student body, a rationale supported by US Supreme Court decisions. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978).
Campus leaders signal their commitment to diversity by making curricular changes, encouraging co-curricular activities across racial lines, establishing cultural spaces, and issuing public statements of support for inclusivity. They can organize voluntary diversity training and workshops, craft diversity recruitment statements, rename buildings, and post slogans like “Excellence Through Diversity” and “Your Connection” on campus. These efforts should not be dismissed, of course—especially when they make campuses more welcoming to those who have historically not been well served by these institutions. But how far and how broad is this commitment to diversity? And is it enough? Current statistics indicate that this is not the case.
As I mentioned above, the most intentional push on college campuses is to increase the numerical diversity of students, staff, and faculty. Despite such collective efforts, however, women of color are disproportionately excluded At the top of the higher education ecosystem. A report by the Eos Foundation and the American Association of University Women on leadership compensation at major research universities, for example, describes how women hold some of the highest-paid medical center and athletics staff positions (12% and 7%, respectively). does The numbers get even more disturbing when race is factored into the equation. Women of color are severely underrepresented in positions such as chancellor, president, dean, chief financial officer, and executive vice president: Asian women hold 0.6% of these positions, Black and African American women hold 0.8%, and Hispanic and Latina women hold 0.8%. % keep. . These statistics clearly show the promotion gap faced by women of color. Notably, Black/African American men and Hispanic/Latino men are also underrepresented and excluded, holding 3.5% and 3.1% of these positions, respectively.
Contrary to popular belief, the lack of diversity in top higher education leadership positions is not an empty pipeline problem. A diverse and qualified talent pool has been visible for many years. According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, between 2009 and 2019 women earned the majority of master’s and doctoral degrees, and they outnumber men in graduate school enrollment. Furthermore, men and women of color have continued to show higher enrollment and graduation rates in doctoral programs over the past two decades.
These disparate outcomes for high earners are far from the educational model of diversity that colleges and universities so vigorously promote.
Similar leadership structures exist in some major professional sports organizations. In 2021, a report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport revealed that 37.6% of players on Major League Baseball’s (MLB) active Opening Day roster were people of color. However, during the same period, only one in 30 owners, four in 30 general managers (one woman and three men) and six in 30 managers were people of color. Similarly, 15.3% of team vice presidents and 19.8% of team senior administrators were people of color, and 22.0% and 28.5% of these positions were women, respectively.
The National Football League (NFL) has also shown little diversity in head coaches and top executive positions at the team level. In 2020, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports reported that 69.4% of NFL players were people of color. In contrast, only 12.6% of head coaches, 12.1% of team CEOs and presidents, 6.5% of general managers, and 13.7% of team vice presidents were people of color. Furthermore, 6.1% of team CEOs and presidents, 0.0% of general managers, and 21.1% of team vice presidents were women.
Notably, during these same time periods, 40.5% of MLB assistant coaches and 35.6% of NFL assistant coaches were people of color—findings that have been remarkably consistent over the past five years and two decades, respectively. In other words, diverse assistant coaches are in the talent pool and likely qualified candidates for managerial and head coaching consideration at these organizations.
With all this in mind, it is clear that there are weaknesses in the organizational logic and initiatives to promote diversity. The current historical moment has heightened the need for leaders to pursue divergent ideas from diversity and inclusion. Equity and Social transformation In the near future, especially in terms of recruitment practices. This is especially important for those of us charged with organizing, leading, and serving various organizations.
We know that a lack of focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in organizations can hinder innovation, problem solving, and financial performance. Higher education and other institutions must develop effective strategies that not only cultivate and support diversity but focus on advancing equity before and at every stage of the high-stakes hiring process.
The events of 2020—such as the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the Black Lives Matter movement—will not magically increase the diversity of high-level employees within organizations. Instead, leaders should embrace the moment and help create more intentional opportunities for people of color and other non-dominant groups to advance through the ranks and ultimately reach equitable leadership representation at the highest levels of their organizations.
To be clear, Michael Denzel Smith reminds us that “representational progress, while important, does not necessarily translate into material progress.”
Organizations can take a fresh look at their current recruiting practices and develop and implement more equity-focused and data-driven approaches. They would be wise to collect in-depth employee data to measure and monitor equity in recruiting, hiring, and promotion outcomes by demographic group. Research shows that employee data monitoring strategies can inform the creation of a more equitable and inclusive environment over time. Specifically, meaningful data with benchmarks can highlight organizational strengths and problem areas, drive intentional and targeted action, and create commitment and accountability among those recruiting leadership teams.
These benchmarks And while dashboards will help monitor data collection and inform better decisions by the leadership team, they won’t be enough. The underlying norms, beliefs, and beliefs of a given organization must also be addressed. As the evidence cited above reveals, the lack of diverse leadership at the highest levels of some organizations is not a pipeline problem—it’s a people problem. People are tied to inadequate recruiting, hiring, and promotion practices that drive uneven results.
White men—members of the dominant group—have held positions of power for generations, and whites hold 85% of top executive positions at all S&P 500 companies. Gatekeepers—those in powerful positions that make decisions, including leading executive search firms—evaluate the merits of influential group candidates based on the qualities they are given. This is a form of racism that creates more racism and inequalities in the workplace. These shared cognitive frames among gatekeepers are unlikely to meet the goal of increasing diversity at the highest level.
Organizations that view candidates of color and women as assets, broaden their understanding of successful candidates, and openly integrate the diverse perspectives of all their members can overcome these structural barriers to the hiring process. Responsibility for real change will also require champions who continue to organize, lead, resist, and actively disrupt business-as-usual practices. Furthermore, organizations would be wise to provide comprehensive mentoring and leadership programs to develop and grow the pool of qualified candidates for senior-level executive positions—especially women and candidates of color.
In short, organizations need to be part of the solution. Programs should include learning sessions on a variety of topics—for example, career goal refinement, interview strategies, and performance and data analyzes—to better prepare historically excluded individuals for the hiring process. Also, these qualified candidates should receive continuous support and campaign to increase their visibility in the industry.
The current lack of diverse leaders at the highest levels of prominent organizations appears to be an organizational learning problem in hiring committees and executive leadership teams, rather than an individual problem or deficiency among candidates. Businesses and postsecondary institutions are spending millions of dollars on diversity initiatives to diversify their workforces, but often to little benefit. Until gatekeepers wake up to new possibilities and understand the strengths and assets that candidates of color and women bring to the workplace, organizations will continue to function (albeit effectively) in the absence of some talented, gifted and qualified leaders.
My next book is Organized Imprisonment: Control, Hyper-Surveillance, and Disposability of Black Athletes at the Corporate University.