Aguirre, Adalberto, Jr. – ERIC Digest ED446723

Via ERIC Digests – The ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Ed


Editor’s Note: This article originally ran on Asian-American  Village as part of the 2001 Back to School Series. Some of the outdated links have been removed from the article.

Diversity in Education
September 2001 Back-to-School Semi-Weekly Readings Series
ERIC Digests

Digests created by the Educational Resources Information Center. Information: Access ERIC, 1-800-LET-ERIC

Institutions of higher education have attempted to diversify their faculty by recruiting women and minorities. Those efforts, however, have been implemented without understanding how women and minority faculty fit in an institution dominated by men, especially White men. In particular, recruitment has taken place without an understanding of the social forces that shape the professional socialization and workplace satisfaction of women and minority faculty. The use of affirmative action in academia to increase the representation of women and minority faculty, for example, has often resulted in workers’ perception that they are tokens or outcomes of reverse discrimination practiced on White men (Delgado, 1991; Niemann, 1999).

By no means is the term minority faculty in this monograph used to identify a homogeneous population. Rather, the term is used as a descriptive category to discuss the workplace experiences of non-White faculty. As such, the term minority faculty includes Latinos, Blacks, Asians, and American Indians. It is not possible to examine the workplace experiences of each minority group, given the limits of the research literature. In particular, the research literature on minority faculty focuses primarily on the experiences of Latinos and Blacks. The research literature does not so much omit Asian and American Indian faculty from study as it recognizes its limitations in making substantive comparisons between minority groups (Pavel et al., 1998; Yen, 1996). That is, more information is simply available on Black and Latino faculty than on Asian or American Indian faculty. As a result, comparisons between the groups run the risk of being conceptually weak, given a lack of data and information for some of the groups. In an attempt to address the need for substantive comparisons in the minority faculty population, this monograph examines the relative differences between minority groups in the faculty population when the data permit comparisons.

The term women faculty, on the one hand, is a descriptive category that includes women’s experiences in the workplace. The term is used to discuss and contrast the academic experiences of women and men faculty in the workplace. On the other hand, the term is not homogeneous in its use; in particular, the term is not designed to bury the workplace experiences of minority women faculty. To this end, the workplace experiences of minority and White women faculty are compared and contrasted to identify commonalities and differences between them. In this manner, the understanding of how minority status and gender are associated with the workplace experiences of minority women faculty is enhanced (Aguirre et al., 1994; Calasanti & Smith, 1998).



The number of women and minority faculty in higher education has been increasing, with the implementation of affirmative action initiatives in higher education serving as a vehicle for increasing their representation. Despite the increased numbers, however, women and minority faculty remain underrepresented in higher education relative to their numbers in the U.S. population. Moreover, despite appreciable gains in the number of Ph.D. degrees earned by women and minorities, their proportionate representation in the U.S. faculty population has remained unchanged Aguirre, 1995; Granger, 1993).



The academic workplace is characterized in popular thinking as a place of enlightened thought and discourse that is immune to influences from the outside world. Its perceived immunity to the outside world has resulted in a perception that the academic workplace is free of conflict and stress. The reality, however, is that the academic workplace is characterized by group struggles over the definition of knowledge and about what it means to be a knowledgeable person. To survive in the academic workplace, faculty members must align themselves with and participate in institutional networks that define one’s position in a knowledge hierarchy (Scheff, 1995; Smith, 1990).



The academic workplace has been described as chilly and alienating for women and minority faculty. On the one hand, women and minority faculty find themselves burdened with heavy teaching and service responsibilities that constrain their opportunity to engage in research and publication. On the other hand, women and minority faculty are expected to assume and perform institutional roles that allow higher education institutions to pursue diversity on campus. But those roles are ignored in the faculty reward system, especially the awarding of tenure. The academic workplace is thus chilly and alienating for women and minority faculty because they are ascribed a peripheral role in the academic workplace and are expected to perform roles that are in conflict with expectations (Johnsrud & Des Jarlais, 1994; Wyche & Graves, 1992).



Women and minority faculty are less satisfied than White male faculty with the workplace because women and minority faculty perceive themselves to be the victims of salary inequities and a biased reward system. Women and minority faculty are also perceived in the academic workplace as less competent than White male faculty. As a result, White male faculty often discredit feminist and minority research. Women and minority faculty face barriers in the academic workplace that question their legitimacy as academics and their access to institutional resources and rewards that promote professional socialization (Aguirre, 1987; Johnsrud, 1993).



An examination of the academic workplace for women and minority faculty becomes imperative if one considers that demographic predictions suggest that the U.S. workforce will become increasingly diverse in the 21st century. The two populations most likely to determine diversity in the workplace in the 21st century are women and minorities. An increased representation of women and minorities in the workplace has implications for institutions of higher e education, especially at a time when it appears that faculty pools are shrinking as the demand for new faculty is increasing. As a result, one may speculate that women and minorities will increase their representation in the faculty population, thus providing institutions of higher education with an enhanced opportunity to diversify their faculty ranks. If women and minority faculty are going to increase their representativeness in higher education, it is necessary to examine the academic workplace to understand how women and minority faculty fit in the academic culture (Aguirre, 2000).



Aguirre, A., Jr. (2000). Academic storytelling: A critical race theory story of affirmative action. Sociological Perspectives, 43, 319-339. —–. (1995). The status of minority faculty in academe. Equity and Excellence in Education, 28, 63-68. —–. (1987). An interpretative analysis of Chicano faculty in academe. Social Science Journal, 24, 71-81.

Aguirre, A., Jr., Hernandez, A., and Martinez, R. (1994). Perceptions of the workplace: Focus on minority women faculty. Initiatives, 56, 41-50.

Calasanti, T., and Smith, J. (1998). A critical evaluation of the experiences of women and minority faculty: Some implications for occupational research. Current Research on Occupations and Professions, 10, 239-258.

Delgado, R (1991). Affirmative action as a majoritarian device, or, Do you really want to be a role model? Michigan Law Review, 89, 1222-1231.

Granger, M. (1993). A review of the literature on the status of women and minorities in the professoriate in higher education. Journal of School Leadership, 3,121-135.

Johnsrud, L. (1993). Women and minority faculty experiences: Defining and responding to diverse realities. New Directions for Teaching and Learning,53, 3-16.

Johnsrud, L., and Des Jarlais, C. (1994). Barriers to tenure for women and minorities. Review of Higher Education, 17, 335-353.

Niemann, Y. (1999). The making of a token: A case study of stereotype threat, stigma, racism, and tokenism in academia. Frontiers, 20, 111-126.

Pavel, D. M., Skinner, R., Cahalan, M., Tippiconnic, J., and Stein, W. (1998). American Indians and Alaska Natives in postsecondary education. Washington, D.C.: Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

Scheff, T. (1995). Academic gangs. Crime, Law and Social Change, 23, 157-162.

Smith, P. (1990). Killing the spirit: Higher education in America. New York: Viking.

Wyche, K., and Graves, S. (1992). Minority women in academia: Access and barriers to professional participation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 16, 429-437.

Yen, A. (1996). A statistical analysis of Asian Americans and the affirmative action hiring of law school faculty. Asian Law Journal, 3, 39-54.


ERIC Identifier: ED446723
Publication Date: 2000-00-00
Author: Aguirre, Adalberto, Jr.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Ed., Wash, DC. BBB32577 – George Washington Univ. Graduate School of Education and Human Development

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