Diversity in Information Technology and Higher Education - Higher Education

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Diversity in Information Technology and Higher Education

by Rochelle R. Newton

Diversity is an interesting word in higher education. Diversity is a topic of discourse in the halls of the administration, human resources and admissions buildings.

However, in practice, diversity is a formidable task. Federal laws bifurcate the issue.   On the one hand, the law says to not discriminate and, on the other, it says do not make exceptions based on race. The dyadic nature of the law provides the perfect opportunity to do nothing or to do very little.

Rochelle R. Newton

Rochelle R. Newton

Many times, when a position becomes available, the hiring manager has already decided whom to hire. He or she then plays the human resources game to comply with regulations knowing fully they have no intention of hiring any of the candidates referred by human resources.

If one were to walk through any institution, or business for that matter, examples of homosocial reproduction would carry the day. Homosocial reproduction is the effort to reproduce ourselves in our environment. As Dressel, Hartfield, & Gooley (1991) wrote, “The standard gestures of affirmative action are inadequate approaches to diversification because they fail to address forms of advanced discrimination that pervade the process of selection and promotion in academic institutions. Legal remedies are lacking for the forms and processes of advanced discrimination.”

The facts support this statement. A National Center for Education Statistics (2013) found “Among full-time professors, 84 percent were White (58 percent White males and 26 percent White females), 4 percent Black, 3 percent Hispanic and 9 percent Asian/Pacific Islander. Making up less than 1 percent each were professors who were American Indian/Alaska Native and of two or more races.”

These numbers are reflected in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields as well. “Whites make up 78 percent of all STEM faculty while Asians are 14 percent, Blacks are 4 percent, Hispanics are 3 percent, and American Indians are 1 percent” (National Institute of Health, 2009). Specific statistics for STEM employment in higher education is sparse for underrepresented groups.

A Georgetown Study found “STEM majors not only have the highest wages, they experience the largest wage growth over the course of their careers (Carnevale, Cheah, & Hanson, 2015).” STEM fields have higher salaries; however, pay inequity exists for underrepresented groups. “White women are paid $.81 for every dollar a (White) man makes. Black men are paid $.75; Black women are paid $.70; Hispanic men are paid $.66; and Hispanic women are paid $.60 for every dollar a White man makes,” (Infoplease, 2016).

More experience and education are not factors for advancement or salary for women and people of color. Salary inequities are justified by obscure titles and budget woes.  Furthermore, these issues are cloaked in the secrecy of human resources where discrimination and equity are difficult to challenge.

Several federal entities have suggested IT jobs will increase exponentially in the coming years without adequate staff to fill these positions. In 2015, it was widely reported that seven Silicon Valley companies’ staff were comprised of 2 percent Blacks and 3 percent Hispanic.

Information technology, like most STEM fields, suffers from a divided work environment and a lack of mentors. Women and people of color are represented in information technology in small numbers and are paid less than their counterparts. Few lead their IT organizations.

In higher education, where diversity is always on the agenda, pay equity and promotion for women and people of color are incongruent with their actual practices.  Diversity is an afterthought. The policies to ensure a diverse talent pool are not effectuated. If one were to scrutinize diversity in higher education, one would find practices that suggest diversity is more about money than equality.

At elite institutions, Asians students are the institutions’ diversity policy. Many times, these students can afford the institution’s tuition and are likely to have higher academic standings than other groups. Admitting students who are academically less prepared may lower an institution’s rankings. This lowering of ranking has a direct correlation to the institution’s bottom line.

Staff hiring has similar policies. Many federal programs include a diversity statement.  For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants policy states, “Application without a diversity recruitment plan to enhance diversity will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed,” (NIH, 2015). These policies can create token minorities. Diversity and equality are commendable efforts if practiced. More times than not, they are just words.

Rochelle R. Newton has worked in information technology for more 30 years. Since 2008, she has worked as a senior manager in IT for Duke University School of Law. She has worked in the both the private and public sectors. 

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