- Bridging the Diversity Divide: Globalization and Reciprocal Empowerment in Higher Education
Writing about how to transform an institution’s cultural climate to be more inclusive and accepting of the vast contributions of women and underrepresented minorities is not an easy task. In fact, changing the cultural climate of any organization is a time-consuming, elusive process that requires commitment from institutional leaders and participation from individuals at all levels within the organizational structure. Edna Chun and Alvin Evans take on this difficult challenge in Bridging the Diversity Divide: Globalization and Reciprocal Empowerment in Higher Education.
Their major argument is that higher education institutions need to attract and retain a diverse talent pool that includes the perspectives of women and minorities to address the global challenges affecting higher education and the world today. The authors frame their discussion about the “diversity divide” using a multidimensional framework of demography, diversity, and democracy in which the key construct of “reciprocal empowerment” is embedded. Chun and Evans define reciprocal empowerment as a values-based approach to organizational change and present it as a driving force to achieve “true” diversity in such organizations as institutions of higher education.
The book opens by discussing the historical roots of exclusion, particularly for women and minorities, in higher education. The authors mention the historical significance of electing the first African American president of the United States of America but warn that more work is needed to eradicate issues of discrimination and inequality in this country. Although the diversity divide exists in various forms in organizations around the country, the book focuses specifically on the diversity gap for faculty and staff on college campuses. Closing that gap will require “systemic change to overcome historical, behavioral, and organizational barriers to diversity and create inclusive campus environments” (p. 3). While the book focuses on narrowing the diversity gap for women and minority faculty and staff, most of the same principles can be applied to narrow the gap for students as well.
A particularly difficult aspect of addressing diversity issues involves making intangible ideals practical. In Chapter 1, Chun and Evans discuss sets of abstract ideals necessary for achieving success in making college environments more inclusive. These ideals are presented as three multidimensional frameworks that build upon one another. The first—technology, talent, and tolerance—is presented as a starting place and is somewhat narrow in scope. The second framework—demography, diversity, and democracy—builds upon and is much broader than the first. Moreover, this framework moves beyond mere tolerance to promote values that facilitate authentic inclusion of and respect for individual differences.
Reciprocal empowerment, the third and major guiding framework, incorporates three forms of power. Self-determination involves individuals’ ability to decide who they will be (as opposed to having an identity imposed upon them). Distributive justice is defined as having access to opportunities and resources. Finally, democratic participation involves having decision-making power. The authors suggest that the tenets of the reciprocal empowerment framework can lead to genuine inclusive practices on college campuses, resulting in greater enrichment and empowerment for everyone in the university community.
Chapter 1 concludes with a visual comparison of two frameworks—one based on the principles of reciprocal empowerment and the other based on systemic racism. The drawing is helpful because it incorporates the intangible constructs [End Page 601] of the frameworks previously discussed with the reciprocal empowerment framework at the center as the major thrust.
The second chapter discusses the need for aligning the purposes of higher education institutions with the goals of globalization and diversity through an examination of mission statements about the educational benefits and value of diversity, and talent management. In discussing the importance of mission statements, the authors note that most institutional mission statements do not include statements of diversity and globalization. Instead, many institutions of higher education have vision statements, separate from their mission statements, that identify the institution’s diversity-related initiatives and goals.