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Campus Women Lead

Spring 2012

Volume 41
Number 1

Making the Academy Inclusive of Women of Color Faculty


Director's Outlook

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Featured Topics

Kathleen Wong(Lau)
Kathleen Wong(Lau)

Improving Climates for Women of Color in the Academy
Kathleen Wong(Lau), independent consultant in intergroup communication and diversity in higher education

The extreme underrepresentation of women of color among academic faculty is well documented. According to the Almanac of Higher Education, in 2010, women accounted for only 31 percent of all tenured faculty in US colleges and universities, and of these women faculty, 0.6 percent were American Indian, 4 percent were Latina, 6.7 percent were Asian American, 7 percent were African American, and 78.1 percent were white (Chronicle of Higher Education 2010). Women of color’s representation in academia is often much lower than their representation in the population at large: for example, African American women comprise just 2 percent of the total professoriate, compared to 6.7 percent of the population (US Census Bureau 2010). It is in reference to statistics like these that Stephanie Evans asks, “Why[,] after so many years of discussion about access and diversity, are there still so few women and faculty of color in American colleges and universities?” (2007, 131).

Daryl Smith points toward one source of this continuing dilemma in Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making It Work (2009). Smith notes that efforts to build a diverse faculty tend to focus on best practices for recruiting faculty members from historically underrepresented groups. Although detailed descriptions of best practices for recruitment are widely available, few strategies specifically address the importance of retaining and promoting a diverse faculty. What are the key components of retention and promotion? Put differently, what components and processes exclude faculty of color, thus contributing to their departures from higher education institutions? Efforts to build a more diverse faculty will need to address these factors—both structural and interpersonal—creating cultures that are not only open to diversity but that are transformed by it.


Alma Clayton-Pedersen Tamara Rogers
Alma R. Clayton-Pedersen
Tamara Rogers

Preparing Critical Faculty for the Nation’s Future in STEM
By Alma R. Clayton-Pedersen, AAC&U senior scholar and CEO of Emeritus Consulting Group, and Tamara Rogers, associate professor of computer science, Tennessee State University

Not since the Sputnik era has the United States placed so much emphasis on education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Our national security, our quality of life, and our economic interests depend on a steady flow of talent to these rapidly changing disciplines. Because the United States currently relies substantially on other countries to supply STEM talent, several influential sectors—including government agencies, businesses, industries, and philanthropies—have reinvigorated their commitment to improving American students’ performance and heightening their interest in these fields. Ensuring stability and security in a complex global economy will require us to pursue this goal with a vigor matching that of the 1960s.

The renewed call for investment in the nation’s STEM talent pool has brought with it a greater attentiveness to the need for diversity in these fields. The nation’s shifting demography and the imperative to increase the number of people with STEM expertise provide a strong impetus to identify and scale up promising approaches that attract more women and people of color to STEM fields. Racial, ethnic, and gender gaps in the STEM workforce, as well as gaps in expertise resulting in dependence on foreign talent, will extend well into the future if these efforts are unsuccessful.


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