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Diversity Low in Higher Education IT Field, Study Finds

New research by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) reveals a need for diversity, equity and inclusion within the higher education information technology field.

According to the report, Diversity in Higher Education Information Technology: From Today’s Workforce to Tomorrow’s Leaders, White men make up to 59 percent of higher education IT employees, and about 70 percent of minorities in higher ed IT positions are men. Black and Hispanic women are the least-represented groups in higher education IT, with a combined three-percent representation.

Keith McIntoshKeith McIntosh

However, the IT college student demographic does not reflect the lack of diversity among their professors. The study found that women make up 57 percent of the classroom while minorities make up 42 percent.

“I think that the institutions that are wise and thoughtful are looking at those changing demographics and trying to put together strategies to be well prepared for that changing student demographic in the future,” said Keith McIntosh, vice president and chief information officer at the University of Richmond.

In addition to racial and gender disparities, the higher education IT workforce has been increasingly getting older and holding positions longer.

Around 43 percent of IT administrators are over the age of 55. Additionally, almost 39 percent of higher education IT administrators have more than 10 years in their current role compared to only 25 percent of other administrators, the report states.

CUPA-HR, an organization that aims to achieve organizational and workforce excellence through advocacy and resources, hopes this research will raise awareness about the lack of diversity within the field.

“What we wanted to do is highlight areas that we thought could make a difference, areas that were core to most higher ed institutions where our data would provide information that would help higher ed make progress on,” said Dr. Adam Pritchard, CUPA-HR’s senior survey researcher. “In this case, diversity.”

Thus far, according to McIntosh, the report has received positive reviews by many higher education institutions and has started conversations on campuses.

“There’s so many different identities and perspectives in the world, and I think we are much better off by bringing all of those into the room to have that conversation – it would make for a better outcome,” said McIntosh. “It might make things a little slower, might make things a little different and might make things uncomfortable for some. But I think the more you do it, the better you get at it. And the better you get at it, the more efficient your team would be.”

In addition to this research, Pritchard believes that there has been a concerted effort within the higher education community to improve diversity within the IT field by organizations such as EDUCAUSE.

Dr. Adam PritchardDr. Adam Pritchard

EDUCAUSE, a professional organization for higher education IT, has focused on making diversity a priority. Recently, they created a Chief Information Officers (CIO) Commitment Statement, which now has approximately 450 signatures, to demonstrate their support for diversity, equity and inclusion.

“As CIOs, we play a pivotal role in shaping the next generation of technology professionals and leaders,” the statement says. “We believe that diverse and inclusive workplace environments will foster more effective and creative teams of IT professionals.”

Additionally, EDUCAUSE established a DEI resource website and completed a study on DEI within higher education IT.

“I think it’s an important step in that field to take responsibility for improving diversity, raising awareness, providing information, resources and opportunities for different people,” said Pritchard.

One of the ways diversity can increase within the field is to improve pay equity, according to Prichard.

Within the field, Black and Hispanic women are underpaid relative to White males, White women are paid equitably and Asians are generally paid more than White men, the report states.

Another solution, highlighted in the research, was for institutions to recruit individuals from regions of the country with better representation of women and racial and ethnic minorities. Female IT professionals and administrators have higher representation in the Northeast while minorities are better represented in the South and West.

CUPA-HR has been working to develop an online DEI maturity index, a free tool available to anyone in higher education.

The tool “allows institutions to go in and self-evaluate and get an idea of what areas they are strong on diversity, equity and inclusion and what areas they need work,” said Pritchard. “And it gives them an actionable plan on what they can do. So that’s one of the things that we are trying to do is connect people with resources.”

In terms of making steps toward improving diversity, McIntosh believes that institutions need to follow three steps: talking about it, studying it and then planning.

“We need to get more people to understand that this is a challenge and there is more that they should do,” he said. “Young people that are going to be leaders need to step into this space and do more. I think the future is bright if we focus on these things.”

Sarah Wood can be reached at [email protected].

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