When Baylor University began considering the creation of a chief-diversity-officer position a few years ago, many of James E. West’s colleagues said the role could help diversify the institution’s faculty.
That got West, an economics professor, thinking: What influence does an executive-level diversity position have on faculty demographics? West, whose work focuses on higher education, and three Baylor colleagues tried to find out.
In a working paper submitted to the National Bureau of Economic Research, West and his colleagues analyzed the faculty diversity of 462 research institutions in United States before and after they hired chief diversity officers. The paper, which the authors say is the first study of the topic, also looks broadly at faculty hiring and student demographics.
The authors were unable to find any statistically significant increase in faculty diversity after the creation of a chief-diversity-officer position. But, as the paper notes, many other factors can affect faculty diversity, such as underrepresentation in the Ph.D. pipeline.