Most colleges and universities have strategic plans that articulate goals to strengthen faculty search procedures to increase the diversity of their staff. While such goals are important, they have come under attack in the past, even needing legal support. For example, Justice Sandra Day O'Conner in her Supreme Court majority opinion clearly communicated that the skills needed in today's global market can only be developed by exposing students to "widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints."1 The Association of American Universities has long communicated that diversity experiences not only enhance the education quality and outcomes of students from underrepresented populations, but of all students.2
The Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce articulated that the health professions of the United States have not kept pace with changing demographics and may be more directly related to disparities in health access, status, and outcomes than the overall lack of health insurance. With minority populations projected to become the majority by 2050, health disparities may continue to worsen if health care professionals do not become more reflective of the populations they serve.3 The diversity challenge is even greater in the academic settings that educate undergraduate and graduate nurses. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that less than 10% of faculty in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs are from underrepresented groups, with 5.6% African Americans, 1.5% Hispanics, 1.9% Asian, and less than 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native documented.4
The lack of minority nurse educators communicates to students and communities of color that the profession does not value diversity. Lacking mentors and role models to support and enhance their education, students from underrepresented populations may not recognize the professional opportunities that exist for faculty in higher education, and the academic leadership that is needed from a diverse nursing workforce to eliminate health disparities in the 21st century.
The growing multicultural world that all student nurses enter requires exposure to a diverse faculty who bring varying research perspectives, pedagogy, and life experiences to the classroom, the laboratory, health systems, and the surrounding community. A critical need exists to create, implement, and evaluate blueprints for action that will attract, retain, support, and promote the leadership and success of faculty from underrepresented populations in schools of nursing. Action steps to be considered in blueprints should strive to:
U.S. colleges and universities are educating a larger and more diverse group of students than ever before. According to the Educational Testing Service, student diversity will increasingly evolve over the next decade, with 80% of the anticipated 2.6 million new college students from underrepresented populations, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders, or American Indians. Undergraduate minority students enrolled in colleges and universities will increase from 29.4%–37.2%.5,6 Most recently, the report on the future of nursing acknowledged the need to respond to the under-representation of racial and ethnic minority groups, including men, in the nursing workforce.7
While a steady increase in the minority university student population has occurred, similar diversification among university faculty has not happened.8 Faculty diversification not only attracts diverse students, thus increasing the applicant pool and supporting academic program growth, but it also contributes directly to the quality of student education. Diverse faculty expose students to a wider range of scholarly perspectives and ideas that build on a variety of life experiences, create intellectual stimulation with new research questions, and foster fresh perspectives in the academic enterprise. Diversification is also the right action, not only from a social justice perspective, but based on business.9 The corporate world has long accepted a mandate that they must expand markets to serve diverse communities to survive in a competitive environment.
While organizational climate has a range of definitions, Baird suggests common descriptors include friendliness, hostility, or acceptance.10 Organizational climate includes the current attitudes, behaviors, and standards/practices that concern the access to, inclusion of, and level of respect for individual and group needs, abilities, and potential. This definition includes all groups, not just those who have been traditionally excluded or underserved by colleges and universities.5
If a school of nursing is to succeed in terms of the retention and recruitment of faculty of color, it must embrace diversity. Turner and Myers report that faculty of color leave for many reasons, including hostile environments—a major factor discouraging potential applicants.6 In contrast, a school of nursing that provides an environment that supports the success of diverse faculty is attractive and facilitates recruitment and retention. Research has shown that endorsement from leaders provides credibility for such programs.11 It's important that administrative support is reflected by publicly rewarding departments, divisions, and units who demonstrate measurable improvement. Support from the top and rewards for increasing diversity have been shown to be the two key factors that determine the success of diversity programs.12
Communicating a school's commitment to diversity, whether through conferences, national meetings, publications, posters, brochures, and/or official websites, ensures the transparency of the school's diversity recruitment goals. Business research shows diversity marketing reduces turnover costs and inspires a desire to be part of a dynamic and responsive team. It also helps institutions win the competition for talent by attracting, retaining, and promoting faculty and leadership from underrepresented populations. Organizations cited as the best places for employment by diverse underrepresented groups also experience an increase in applications.13 Furthermore, research has shown endorsement from the organization's leadership brings credibility to diversity programs and influences attitude change.11
Sullivan (2007) underlined the critical role academic leaders play in successful diversity programs. These leaders must create a culture within their academic units that supports the implementation of a strategic plan—one that establishes goals, defines success, and fosters accountability, best practices, and financial resources.14
Nationally, hundreds of campuses are engaged in competitive efforts to diversify their faculties in response to external and internal pressures. Yet, according to Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner, in her book Diversifying the Faculty: A Guidebook for Search Committees, five prevalent myths have hindered the hiring process of ethnically, racially, and gender underrepresented diverse faculty.15
Research published in the Journal of Higher Education in 2004 showed that among institutions with predominantly white populations, the hiring of faculty from underrepresented groups occurs when at least one of the following three conditions are met. First, the job description explicitly engages diversity at the department level. Second, an institutional "special hire" strategy is used, such as waiver of a search, target of opportunity hire, or spousal hire. Third, the search is conducted by an ethnically/racially diverse search committee.16 Search committees often approach their charge in a passive, routine way (i.e., advertise the position in publications, evaluate résumés, invite three to five candidates for campus interviews, and then make an offer).
To address the need to recruit faculty from underrepresented racial/ethnic or gender diverse populations in a school of nursing, the search committee must take a more proactive approach to finding candidates from such populations. All steps taken during the search process can contribute to a solid foundation for the successful retention of diverse faculty hired as well as ongoing successful recruitment into the future.
Viernes Turner writes that schools of nursing should focus on eight action steps to form successful hiring committees:15
The campus visit is also a critical moment of opportunity that allows the candidate to make a well-informed decision on whether the position and the school of nursing is a right fit. Evaluation forms should be provided to all campus parties involved in the visit and discussed by the committee. Asking the candidate to comment on the process will also provide the school's search committee with information to improve the process for subsequent campus visits. It is important to not only evaluate the candidate, but also the search committee process, in order to improve the chances of reaching the desired outcome.
The most successful universities have both a strong commitment and action plans that support faculty diversity.17 An important and overlooked strategy to retain professors from underrepresented populations is to create a critical mass to prevent feelings of isolation and alienation that result in leaving.15
Using a blueprint to transform an institution to reflect a pluralistic society requires the collective evaluation of attitudes, the behaviors they generate, and the unconscious bias that shape faculty actions.18 Critical to this process is a vigilant and widespread diversity campaign that promotes individual ownership of the blueprint for change and is advocated and supported by both the faculty and school leadership.
A need exists for schools of nursing to showcase a vision and strategy for recruitment, retention, and promotion of a faculty that reflects the diversity of the United States and the world whose health they plan to promote. And as Benjamin Franklin once said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."