Do Subtle Discrimination and Social Justice Belong in Leadership Development Programs?

Mary Rowe, ombudsperson at MIT argues that subtle discrimination is the primary scaffolding for segregation in the U.S., a scaffolding that maintains inequality through micro-inequities–small, ephemeral, covert events that marginalize historically disadvantaged groups. She writes about how micro-inequities come to her attention everyday:

I hear of racist and anti-gay graffiti, of ethnic jokes in a lab, of someone failing to introduce a minority person, or confusing the names of two people of color I hear of someone ascribing the work or idea of a woman to a nearby male, of people who think exclusively of male contacts when a job or coveted assignment is open, of someone’s obvious discomfort at being assigned to travel with a woman or a person of another race. I hear of women who take a different path to class because of a man who seems to hang around on the path. I hear of a minority employee not notified of a vital matter at work. I hear of a woman trainee assigned to a certain office she did not want to be in, ‘because the man in that office was lonely and wanted to be assigned with a woman.’

Are these issues that leaders need to know about? Are the dynamics of subtle discrimination a subject for leadership development programs?

A thought-provoking new report on leadership and race entitled “How to Develop and Support Leadership that Contributes to Racial Justice” has just been issued by the Leadership Learning Community. The report suggests the leadership programs that simply focus upon diversity practices, equal opportunity, and individualism, do not recognize how systems such as culture, institutional practices, and policies, impact career and life opportunities for disadvantaged groups. A revealing chart in the report indicates that almost 90 percent of the 122 institutional leadership programs surveyed address diversity, but only half include training on structural racism and white privilege. An even smaller number (a little over 30 percent) include GLBTQ concerns.

Why does this matter? Should structural considerations relating to racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, and other forms of exclusion be included in our leadership development programs? Should we not simply continue to talk about the value of diversity without addressing the systems that perpetuate social stratification within our institutions and organizations?

These questions remain controversial. It is easier to focus upon general discussions of diversity and multi-culturalism without delving into the difficult problems that this country has faced and is still facing. As American’s foremost theorist on systemic discrimination, Joe Feagin, reminds us in The White Racial Frame , the United States is a country shaped by extensive slavery and comprehensive legal segregation for a time period of 350 years, between 1619 to 1969, when legal segregation officially ended.

In the field of higher education, we know from recent reports that a high degree of racial and gender stratification persists in the administrative leadership ranks. My colleague, Alvin Evans of Kent State University, and I are exploring the implications of this stratification for university leadership in an upcoming book.
And as Adrianna Kezar and Rosana Carducci point out in Rethinking Leadership in a Complex, Multicultural and Global Environment now is the time for a revolutionary reconceptualization of leadership models from hierarchical, individualist leadership models that focus on power over others, to process-centered, nonhierarchical, collective forms of leadership that emphasize mutual power.

We agree. In Bridging the Diversity Divide: Globalization and Reciprocal Empowerment in Higher Education my co-author and I identify the importance of a framework of demography, diversity, and democracy that infuses the climate and culture and fosters reciprocal empowerment. Reciprocal empowerment corrects the imbalance in asymmetrical power relations through distributive justice, collaboration, and self-determination. In this era of globalization, the need for new approaches in our leadership programs that address critical social justice issues has never been stronger.

Florida’s S.B. 988, Philanthropic Giving, and the Public Good

This post was written by Calixto Melero Jr. and Marco Portales, Texas A&M University

Florida’s S.B. 998 allows nonprofit tax-deductible foundations not to disclose race and gender information regarding their administrators, staff, and grant recipients. This law legalizes and encourages money and power to continue to flow largely to privileged people and to organizations with resources. Disguised as a post-racial “color blind” policy enhancement, further legislation legalizing such laws and policies will continue to dismantle and kill the Public Good.

Driven by Tea Party and neo-conservative minds, Florida’s S.B. 998 dismantles civil rights laws and policies that are in place to empower communities of color.

Unlike other public and private sectors that have embraced and benefited from minority perspectives, tax-deductible nonprofits in Florida today can continue to exclude non-whites from their boardrooms, funding mechanisms, and grant giving.

In 1982, CEOs and board diversity memberships nationally consisted of 1.6 and 4.3 percent, statistics that slightly improved in 2006 to 5.8 and 13 percent, according to a 2008 article, “Philanthropy in a Changing Society” by Chao, Parshall, Amador, Shah, and Yanez. That’s why a U.S. House 2007 committee found private foundations were “not doing as much as they could or should” to channel dollars and support to racial minorities. Nonprofits “were not growing in pace with overall charitable giving” and with society’s demographic changes.

No Post-Racial America: Racial Inequalities in US Medicine

Over at, Gail Zoppo has an important post—“Is There a Black, Latino Doctor in the House?”– on the huge problem of lack of people of color in U.S. medical schools and professions. Racial inequality remains central in the medical professions and facilities in this “post-racial America.” We still have relatively few black, Latino, and Native American medical students across the country. Zoppo underscores the slow pace of improvement, noting that three years these groups made up only 15 percent of the 40,000 applicants to U.S. medical schools, even as they make up a third of the U.S. population in their typical age range. (She does not discuss data on Asian Americans in her post.) This is a key result from this longterm reality:

That same year, only 8.7 percent of doctors were from these underrepresented groups, according to a study published in the Journal of Academic Medicine.

She then discusses where we are at in the recent American Association of Medical Colleges data, just slight changes since 2006:

Among the 42,269 med-school applicants in 2009, only 16 percent were Black, Latino or American Indian.

Other medical professions are also characterized by a lack of black, Latino, and Native American personnel:

… a mere 6.9 percent of people from underrepresented groups ended up as dentists in 2007, only 9.9 percent were pharmacists and just 6.2 percent were registered nurses.

One national issue is also that white medical personnel are much less likely to work in undeserved communities of color:

Black, Latino and American Indian/Pacific Islander physicians are nearly three to four times more likely than whites to practice in underserved communities, reports the AAMC.

On the positive side, Zoppo does discuss some important attempts to deal with this underrepresentation in medical schools and professions, such as the Rutgers University Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences (ODASIS)

Why Did Dean Kagan Preside Over a Whitened Harvard Law School?

A Salon article by four law professors of color raises very serious questions about Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s weak hiring record as the 11th Dean of Harvard Law School. There she presided over an extensive hiring program, but only one faculty member of color was hired:

Of these 32 tenured and tenure-track academic hires, only one was a minority. Of these 32, only seven were women. All this in the 21st Century.

She is rumored to be President Obama’s choice for the current Supreme Court vacancy. Whether that is true or not, she is in the final list. And her very weak commitment to diversity there at HLS, where she has significant power to bring diversity change, signals that the mostly white folks who seem to be advising the president on such critical matters are operating in a business as usual fashion. Placement of someone like her on the court will likely assist in its rightward movement.

Diversity in University Administration – Myth or Reality?

[Note: I am posting this anonymously for someone who knows these issues very well from the inside.]

Frequently on college campuses you will hear people say that there are too many administrators and their pay is too high. Few understand the fragile and precarious working conditions of administrators. Unlike faculty whose careers promote individualistic accomplishments solidified through tenure, university administrators typically serve without employment protection or tenure to support the success of the whole institution.

Diverse administrators are only beginning to break the glass ceiling in the 277 American research universities. Only a decade ago, no Hispanic female administrators had been appointed, and between 1997 and 2007 this number increased 207 percent to 2665 a decade later. Over 80 percent of the incumbents in administrative roles are white, with white non-Hispanic women now outnumbering their male counterparts in 41% of these positions.

Yet women and minorities tend to be clustered in lower ranking administrative positions. For example, a revealing study by the American Council of Education in 2007 indicates that only 10 percent of chief academic officers are minorities, and women represent only 23 percent of incumbents in senior academic roles, the typical pathway to the presidency (See pdf here).

These statistics still indicate that leadership and decision-making in the research university mirror the racial stratification of our society. As social theorist Joe Feagin points out in The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing (2010), “we still live in a very hierarchical society in racial, class, and gender terms, one where white men continue to make the lion’s share of major decisions about our economic development, laws, and major public policies” (p. 193).9780415994392

Going beyond the numbers, however, new research on micro-inequities, micro-invalidations, and micro-aggressions illuminates how forms of everyday discrimination can still isolate, marginalize and exclude diverse individuals in the workplace. Take Stephen Young’s ground-breaking book on Micro-messaging. Micromessages are small, cumulative behaviors with monumental impact. These micro-inequities can take place through facial expressions, hand gestures, choice of words, eye contact, and tone of voice and reveal what is behind the masks that connect myths of incompetence with race, gender, and other factors. Psychologist Derald Wing Sue of Columbia University describes the cumulative impact of micro-aggressions, micro-invalidation, and micro-assaults that create unfair disparities between minority and majority individuals.

In the effort to develop new leadership models within the university that emphasize empowerment, collaboration, and equity, women, minority and LGBT administrators have an important role to play in the change process. Through collective action and mutual support, they can lead institutional efforts to create systemic organizational learning initiatives, institutional policies and processes that help overcome subtle forms of discrimination and foster inclusive excellence.

Racial Inequality and Faculty of Color at Elite Universities: An MIT Report

A new report from MIT’s Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity, according to this summary, examines

how race affects the recruitment, retention, professional opportunities and collegial experiences of Black, Hispanic and Native American professors at MIT [and] urges the Institute to strengthen its efforts to recruit and retain underrepresented minority (URM) faculty.

The report took two and half years on the part of nine faculty members. The methodology is this:

[A] quality-of-life survey administered to the entire faculty in January 2008, in-depth interviews of all URM faculty and a small comparison group of White and Asian faculty, and a salary analysis. To compare promotion and tenure rates and other hiring data by department and school, the committee also reviewed a cohort analysis of faculty who came to MIT between 1991 and 2009.

The report notes there have been gains in the URM faculty, but are very uneven across colleges and departments. MIT President Susan Hockfield is quoted as accepting the report and commenting that “A richly diverse America does not await us, it is upon us; it is our present and our future.” The main findings of the Initiative are these:

* MIT recruits heavily from its own departments and from a few peer institutions — such as Harvard and Stanford — which suggests that broadening the recruitment search could yield larger numbers of URM faculty.
* Compared to their White peers, a higher percentage of URM faculty leave before or after they are promoted to associate professor without tenure, suggesting that efforts to retain URM faculty may be especially critical in their first three to five years.
* Poor or negative faculty mentoring experiences are more frequent for URM than for non-URM faculty, partly because mentoring across the Institute lacks consistency.
* Overall, URM faculty report more dissatisfaction than their White counterparts. However, it is the URM non-tenured faculty, particularly black faculty, who are most likely to be “very satisfied” with their lives at MIT.
* There is “great awkwardness” in addressing race and racial differences openly at MIT, meaning that discussion of race-related issues is avoided.

Sadly, these are findings the researchers on this site could have easily predicted. The recruitment of faculty, the report notes, is very heavily and disproportionately from Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, and then from other elite schools–which will of course severely limit the diversity of a faculty hiring pool. This is the kind of incestuous racism that takes place at elite colleges and universities and has for many years. This is not meritocracy, but elite-ocracy at work.

The next two points really signal internal racism in operation, a failure of mentoring and support of many kinds. Some of this internal racism in universities is blatant and intentional, but much of it is subtle or a type of passive bystanding wherein white faculty members “do not want to get involved” or “do not know how to relate” to people of color. Such faculty have mostly never had an education in such things as stereotyping 101, racism 101, and antiracism 101. Like most of the population in the country.

On the faculty dissatisfaction side, they could have long ago learned a lot about what everyday college life is like for faculty of color from key books and research articles on the subject by leading scholars like Professor Christine Stanley (also a vice president now for diversity at the fortunate Texas A&M University), Professor Mark Chesler, and Professor Roxanna Harlow. Or this report I did for the American Council on Education (see discussion here). Apparently, reading social science on these matters is beyond MIT’s leaders? They did not need to spend so much time here reinventing the wheel. Science?

The main MIT report recommendations for change are these:

* Each academic unit should work with its academic dean and the associate provost of faculty equity to develop strategies for improving recruitment efforts of URM faculty. … Formal mentors should be assigned to junior faculty hires, and mentors and mentees should be informed about expectations. …MIT should broaden faculty searches to other carefully selected institutions. MIT should create forums where race and cross-cultural interactions are openly discussed, and the Institute should harness its most highly respected scholars, scientists and engineers to act as spokespeople on diversity issues.

Typical stuff and useful if there is commitment at the very top to carry this through, and well. But this is not enough. Change should begin, IMHO, with a very thorough study of MIT’s own deep structures of white racism, those long structured within the hoary institution, and with a real commitment to change those as well.

Inclusion Means Minority and Majority Group Members Too

Diversity is still a pressing problem in the higher education workplace. Recently, it has become increasingly clear to me that we must engage majority members in this sometimes uphill battle if we are to succeed. When we invited Professor Joe Feagin to our campus to meet with our equity committee, he immediately noticed that we did not have majority group representation at the meeting. Similarly, in presenting a workshop at a national conference to an audience of minority and majority group members recently, I could feel the tension generated when I noted the contributions of white leaders to the civil rights movement.

In our recent book, “Bridging the Diversity Divide” my colleague Alvin Evans and I note that 0470525622incorporating the leadership of majority group members to spearhead diversity efforts is an important tactical strategy. One of my favorite books is, in fact, Tim Wise’s “White Like Me” in which he serves as an eloquent spokesperson against racism and what he calls “institutionalized white supremacy.” As a majority group member, he probably has an even greater ability to challenge and critique the practices of white privilege in our institutions.

The evidence is strong that we must do a better job of retaining diverse members of our campus communities. For example, a survey of 8500 pretenure faculty members conducted by Coache (Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education) found that minority faculty members were less satisfied with campus climate than their white peers and 17 percent felt that climate was one of the two worst aspects about working for their institution, second only to compensation. And another study reveals that over a period of four years, three out of five minority faculty at 27 California colleges and universities were simply replacing other minority faculty who had left their institutions.

Cumulative, subtle and repetitive micro-incursions against women and minorities create stressful and unhealthful working environments. In “Are the Walls Really Down? Behavioral and Organizational Barriers to Faculty and Staff Diversity” we discuss the shape of new and evolving forms of discrimination: lack of support, differing expectations, failure to empower, stereotyping and organizational fit, that have replaced previous forms of egregious discrimination.

As a human resource practitioner in higher education with responsibility for diversity and affirmative action in a large multi-campus community college, the challenge of diversifying the faculty and higher level staff and administration sometimes seems elusive. Although we brief search committees on the importance of diversity and identify affirmative action goals by department, discipline and campus, when the search is completed the selection of the final candidate may fall into rather predictable patterns in certain areas. Developing an affirmative action practice that actually has clout takes time and great persistence. Although we have made much headway in informing departments of goals and tracking success records, overall statistics reveal that progress still needs to be made.

The greatest challenge ahead is in transforming our campus cultures so that we do not waste the vast resources of talent that women and underrepresented groups bring to our institutions. We believe that organizational learning—within institutions that are devoted to learning—will be one of the most powerful channels of change. We need to create new mental models and as psychologist Carol Dweck advises, grow the mindsets of our workplaces, rather than being limited by fixed mindsets that preclude inclusion of all members of our campus community.

Edna B. Chun, D.M. is Vice President for Human Resources and Equity at Broward College and a leader in efforts to diversify faculty, staff, and students in institutions of higher education.