Diversity, inclusion increases productivity in schools: part 2

July 5, 2013 

Part I of this column topic addressed the general idea that diversity and inclusion increase productivity in general. That idea brought business leaders to create the business case for diversity and inclusion comprising two components: 1) a more diverse customer base is better served by a more diverse workforce that can effectively communicate with diverse customer subgroups and thus increase productivity; and 2) diverse teams produce better results because heterogeneous team members provide a broader range of ideas and potential solutions to a given problem.

In general, organizations such school districts easily find themselves in the category of those that do not believe in the two components of “business case for diversity” as described above. For one, students enroll in a school not because that district has made some marketing to attract them, but rather because parents decide to locate within its geographical boundaries.

Two, while it is widely admitted that diverse teams produce better results, great numbers of educational institutions make no or little efforts to attract or retain qualified diverse staff, especially when they are recognized to be successful. The homogeneous teams of leaders that operate such schools often share the same social, intellectual and sometimes geographical characteristics, perspectives and experiences. I fully understand the valid human nature that most people are more comfortable with people who are similar to them. Other studies go as far as stating that people are afraid of those who are different from themselves.

Remember what Dee W. Hock (the successful founder and former CEO of Visa Credit Card) said, “Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replicate your strength and idiotic to replicate your weakness. It is essential to employ, trust, and reward those whose perspective, ability and judgment are radically different form yours.” This is an advice that numerous school systems would benefit from. Unfortunately, a lot do not even attempt to do so.

I am not suggesting that schools are static or that they do not want to hire and retain diverse administrators and teachers, or that qualified minority teachers are lined up for positions. No. The thought is present but remains unfortunately a thought, not a priority for many; school leaders do not actively give it the same resources, drive, and determination.

In some districts, the growth of minority students is exponential but the staff remains year after year homogenous. To use a sports analogy, coaches actively travel around the country, and the world in search of the best players for their team. Most educational institutions are not doing the same.

If educators truly want to leave no child behind, they should grasp a read of the numerous studies across the nation in support of component No. 1 of the business case for diversity. The Carnegie Task Force on Teaching reports that “the race and background of teachers influence children’s attitude toward school, their views of their own and others intrinsic worth.” The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education notes, “A quality education requires that all students be exposed to the variety of cultural perspectives that represent the nation at large. Such exposure can be accomplished only via a multiethnic teaching force in which racial and are included at a level of parity with their number in the population.” Realistically, I also understand that the parity mentioned above is not feasible in most cases.

Coming back home, in an increasingly diverse community like Lee’s Summit where the leadership of the City at large has embraced diversity and inclusion and promotes it, it becomes a concern when citizens express their frustration (right or wrong) that since the school district does not set as priority to hire diverse staff, it might neither have enrolled minority students had not been the legal mandate obligating it to do so.

Emmanuel Ngomsi, Ph.D. is President of All World Languages and Cultures, Inc. He educates and coaches on issues of cultures and diversity. He can be reached at info@universalhighways.comor 1-888-646-5656

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