The Advance Project

Enhancing the academic careers of women in science, technology, engineering, & mathematics

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Persistent Myths About Racial Diversity

In an attempt to discover PhD recipients’ real-life job-market experiences, Smith , Wolf, and Busenberg (1996) interviewed over 300 recipients of prestigious Ford, Mellon, and Spencer doctoral fellowships. Their sample, representative of both gender (48% women)and racial (26% African American, 4% Asian or Pacific Islanders, 35% White, 32% Latino, 3% American Indian) diversity, spanned a wide range of academic disciplines. Their findings, some of which are outlined below, contrasted starkly with pervasive myths regarding faculty diversification (see our Recruitment Handbook for a complete list of findings).




The scarcity of faculty of color and women in the sciences means that few are available and those who are available are highly demand by wealthy, prestigious institutions. Though scarcity is certainly a factor, it is not the only (or even legitimate) reason for lack of faculty of color in academe. A majority of scientists of color reported they were not pursued for faculty positions by academic institutions, regardless of their wealth or prestige, and thus continued in postdoctoral study. Many were quite concerned about finding jobs and others had left academe for the industry because they were unable to find positions.
Faculty of color are leaving the academe altogether for more lucrative positions in the government or industry. Choices to leave the academe were as often a function of the problems of academe (such as the need to establish a career before the age of forty, inhumane search processes, and the difficult job market), as they were the result of the lack of such pressures outside.
Campuses are so focused on diversifying the faculty that heterosexual White males have no chance. White men had a wide variety of choices. In most cases, where White men had difficulty in finding a regular faculty appointment, the fields in which they specialized had virtually no openings. White men who had expertise related to diversity had a significant advantage in the job market; indeed, it made them a “safer” choice than a faculty of color or woman doing similar research.


Persistent myths about gender diversity >>

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