EDUCAUSE recently released a brief detailing diversity in the higher education information technology (IT) workforce. The report is designed understand factors that help promote and maintain the success of higher education’s IT workforce. The report, “Diversity in Higher Education: Information Technology,” created with CUPA-HR – human resources support for higher education — examines demographic makeup of the higher education IT workforce so as to better understand the workforce today and to identify opportunities in the pipeline for future higher education IT leaders.
This EDUCAUSE brief is a snapshot of diversity and pay equity in higher education IT, a look at the aging of IT administrators, and the characteristics of possible pipeline positions from data collected in the 2018 CUPA-HR Administrators in Higher Education, Professionals in Higher Education and Staff in Higher Education surveys.
In all, EDUCAUSE says higher education entities provided data for more than 36,577 incumbents in 51 information technology positions for the 2017-18 academic year.
Among higher education IT employees, 26% are women and 21% are racial/ethnic minorities. Representation of women and racial/ethnic minorities in higher education IT is much lower than among college students, the primary constituent population they serve. According to the report, the representation of minorities varies greatly within higher education IT, with far more minorities represented in staff and professional positions than in administrator roles.
White men make up the majority (59%) of higher education IT employees, and about 70% of minorities in higher ed IT positions are men.
Black and Hispanic women are the least-represented groups in higher ed IT, together occupying only about 3% of all IT positions (and only 0.5% of all IT administrative positions).
One way to increasing the diversity of higher education, EDUCAUSE suggests, is for institutions to recruit experienced individuals from regions of the country with better representation of women and racial/ethnic minorities. For example, female IT professionals and administrators are better represented in the Northeast than in the rest of the country, whereas minorities are much better represented in the South and West. “This data highlights the need for considering nationwide or regionally-targeted recruiting strategies when seeking diverse candidates — particularly for leadership roles,” the report states.
In general, Black and Hispanic women are underpaid relative to their white male peers; white women are paid equitably; and Asians are generally paid more than white men.
Aging, Retirement and the pipeline
An important concern for many U.S. employers is the expected wave of retirements in leadership positions as the last of the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) turns 55 years old in 2019, with many already at or past the expected retirement age. Administrators in higher education IT are no exception. For higher ed IT, this demographic transition may present an opportunity to make progress on diversity as this less-diverse generation gives way to a younger, more diverse generation.
The median age of the IT administrators highlighted in this report is 52 years old; however, the proportion of higher education IT employees that are older suggests that higher education IT may soon face succession planning challenges.
Around 43% of IT administrators are 55 years old or older. The median years in position is seven, but almost 39% of higher education IT administrators have more than 10 years in their current role. This is high compared to all administrators in higher education, where the median time in position is five years, and only 25% of administrators have more than 10 years in their current position.
Certain IT positions are considered part of the pipeline to administrative leadership roles. Some of these positions have higher representation than average for women or individuals from certain racial/ethnic groups, and may provide opportunities to recruit diverse future leaders as older employees near retirement.
“Some in higher education IT have argued that to close the gap on diversity in the field, a different way of thinking about recruitment, retention, and creating inclusive environments may be necessary, including deliberate efforts to use this type of data to recruit more diverse leaders,” the report’s authors write. “Higher education IT may also need to consider recruiting diverse candidates for leadership roles from outside of higher education or from positions not typically identified as part of traditional job progressions.”
EDUCAUSE says the data collected on information technology positions in higher education can help institutions focus their attention on key aspects of diversity for this critical part of the higher ed workforce.
“The time to begin succession planning is now — and the data show that certain positions in the immediate higher education IT pipeline may present opportunities to improve DEI in the process,” EDUCAUSE notes.