University Business May 2017 - 20

HUMAN RESOURCES

Diversity initiatives must
change with the times
More higher ed institutions hire chief diversity officers to oversee range of initiatives

W

ith skilled workers in
demand by industry and
student enrollment declining, ignoring diversity initiatives is impractical, even unproductive. Students,
employees and job candidates can easily
see through an institutional fa├žade that
claims to embrace diversity but makes
little effort to promote it. By expanding
the definition of diversity and frequently
introducing new programs or events that
celebrate people's differences, some institutions are shifting their culture to honor
people on and off their campus.
Reasons to hire a CDO
Over the last several years, more
schools have been hiring chief diversity
officers (CDOs). Based on results from
a survey conducted by the National
Association of Diversity Officers in
Higher Education, 77 percent of the
196 CDOs who responded stated
they're part of their school's executive
or administrative staff.
Jason Kirksey, vice president and
CDO at Oklahoma State University,
says supporting a CDO position sends a
strong message about the school's commitment to diversity. "I can share my
experiences as a black faculty member in
the classroom as well as with others on
campus who don't have that experience.
My input is immediate and direct."
Another reason to hire a CDO is to
provide both oversight of diversity initiatives across the institution and alignment with school goals, says Lisa Cole-

UBmag.me/change

20 | May 2017

man, CDO and special assistant to the
president at Harvard University.
The institution has supported diversity and inclusion initiatives since the
1960s. In recent years, it introduced
diversity resource groups and implemented strategies for its postdoctoral
pipeline to draw faculty from a stronger
and more diverse pool of candidates.

To create a truly diverse
culture, schools need to
develop a campuswide
infrastructure that affects
all areas of the institution.
How to generate awareness
Familiarizing employees with the concept of implicit bias or hidden discrimination is among the most important
parts of any diversity program. At Clemson University, human resources and the
office of inclusion and equity are developing a variety of educational opportunities-including courses, online training
and trips to hear speakers at national
summits-to help faculty and staff recognize their implicit biases, says Michelle
Piekutowski, associate vice president and
chief HR officer at Clemson.
Last fall, the school launched a
cloud-based system that provides realtime aggregate data about job candidates who have applied for positions.
"If we're not getting enough females or
people in this group or that group, then
we have social media packages in place
that enable us to go out and target specific, diverse groups," she says. "We're
seeing much better candidate pools, and
it makes people think about diversity."

By Carol Patton

Programs have to be flexible
At some schools, diversity initiatives are
narrowly applied, typically focusing on
just race and gender, says Cecil Hicks,
assistant vice chancellor and human resources director at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. But to create a truly
diverse culture, schools need to develop a
campuswide infrastructure that affects all
areas of the institution, he says.
Hicks says a core group of employees
in human resources and other related departments have completed Intercultural
Development Inventory training to learn
to adapt behavior to cultural differences.
The school has also extended its
diversity initiatives beyond campus. Faculty and staff who work in the sciences
promote STEM-related occupations to
diverse employees, students and other
members in the community-especially
women and people of color.
Earlier this year, for example, they
screened Hidden Figures (the Oscar
nominated story of African-American
women mathematicians who played a
vital role in the early years of the U.S.
space program) and followed the film
with a discussion about career opportunities in science.
All these schools demonstrate that
initiatives surrounding diversity and inclusiveness must be fluid to be impactful.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives
need to transform and adapt to current
times. Otherwise, they may be labeled as
just another traditional human resources
program, quickly losing their appeal,
value and effectiveness among your
workforce.
Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based writer who
specializes in human resources issues.
www.universitybusiness.com


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