Diversity means more than recruiting unrepresented minorities; that's only the start. Diversity means paying attention to "micro-messaging" that implies someone got special hiring treatment. It means encouraging cultural competency among faculty and senior administrators to help them interact effectively with people from different backgrounds. Above all, it requires leadership at all levels of an institution.
Those were some of the messages explored by participants in the March 9 New England Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) 2009 Diversity Roundtable, hosted by MIT. HERC supports efforts to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, administrators and staff through sharing information and resources.
"Diversity recruitment in challenging economic times calls for leadership that makes sense of the perils and exploits the opportunities," said Robbin Chapman SM '99, PhD '06, manager of diversity recruitment in MIT's School of Architecture and Planning and the organizer of the event.
The need for diversity must be fully threaded into an institution's mission, MIT Human Resources Vice President Alison Alden told the gathering. "Diversity is not something you do on Sunday but is baked into everything we do," she said.
Chapman said she was determined to create a format in which participants did more than listen to speeches. Accordingly, the nearly 80 representatives from the region's schools and teaching hospitals split into 10 groups and worked through an exercise aimed at thinking creatively about promoting diversity and inclusiveness. The exercise, known as a "Diversity Inclusion Score Card," was created by Matt Thompson, director of staff diversity at MIT's Department of Human Resources.
"This is the first time leadership activities have been embedded in the roundtable program," Chapman said. "According to the debriefing that took place during closing activities, knowing how to lead the diversity and inclusion work within your institution could influence and galvanize real change."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 11, 2009 (download PDF).