improving diversity in leadership

Diversifying the Landscape of Leadership

Close your eyes and think — what was the last TV advertisement you saw? Although you may be streaming your shows these days, you’re likely to have still seen your fair share of commercials. Unlike the ads of past generations, today’s promos include diverse characters representing a broad range of identities — defying outdated, out-of-touch notions about American families.

While increased visibility certainly is worth celebrating, countless opportunities to amplify diverse voices remain untaken. For example, in corporate America, a baffling 83% of senior managers are Caucasian. Corporate America is not alone in its need to step up, either; in education, a disproportionate 80% of teachers are white. Considering that nearly half of our country’s residents aren’t Caucasian, this complex problem is undeniable — representation is sorely lacking at the leadership level.

Attesting to the intricacy of this issue, Nicole Miller, Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) at Goodwin University, states that leadership teams are responsible for prioritizing inclusion and establishing safe spaces. “There need to be open conversations about perspective and diversity.” Miller continues, “Leaders need to take accountability for their role in influencing the culture of their workplace.”

By advancing to a leadership role, you can play a pivotal role in establishing an inclusive professional culture. When you earn your master’s in Organizational Leadership (MSOL) at Goodwin, you prepare to inspire change at the leadership level. Read on to learn why now, more than ever, we need your voice at the table.

It starts at school

When collecting books for their classroom libraries, progressive-minded teachers follow a simple mantra: provide young readers with windows, mirrors, and sliding doors. First coined by educator and activist Emily Style, this mantra was later updated by Rudine Sims Bishop, a multicultural education scholar.

So, what did Style and Rudine mean? Put simply, their idea embraces inclusion in children’s literature. While a “window” helps students explore cultures and identities that differ from their own, a “mirror” allows them to see their identity reflected by the protagonist of a story. A “sliding door” serves as a transitional point, allowing children to step into the shoes of others and strengthen their own understanding, sensitivity, and empathy.

This speaks to the importance of representation and visibility. When students from marginalized backgrounds see themselves championed as the hero of a story, it increases their self-esteem. Furthermore, it builds motivation — children are inspired to picture themselves in leadership roles that may have otherwise seemed inaccessible.

Nonetheless, the problem remains — an inclusive class library just isn’t enough. In order to inspire and support the diverse leaders of tomorrow, we need diverse leaders today. Serving as more than role models, school leaders support their students’ social development. When teachers and administrators represent a broad range of identities, it challenges learners’ biases, supports cultural sensitivity, and elevates their social awareness.

Miller emphasizes that while it isn’t a leader’s responsibility to dismantle biases, those in positions of power have a unique opportunity. “It isn’t your responsibility to educate or teach anyone about their issues or their biases,” she offers, “but you can help point people in the right direction. Doing so can help people develop the skills necessary to check themselves when they find that they’re reducing someone to a stereotype.”

Combatting biased punishments

Let’s dive a little deeper, shall we?

Although it’s estimated that over half of all American schoolchildren don’t identify as white, only 20% of teachers are not Caucasian. Adding to this concern is the disproportionate punishment of Black students. According to the Department of Education, African American children are significantly more likely to be suspended than white peers.

This phenomenon has a particularly devastating effect on the development of young Black boys. The repercussions of excessive, biased punishments often extend beyond the classroom — fracturing children’s trust in authority figures and damaging their confidence.

In contrast, schools with diverse faculty present a different landscape. Research from John Hopkins University suggests that African American students are 13% more likely to pursue higher education if they have at least one Black teacher before 3rd grade. The same study indicates that having at least two African American teachers increases the statistic to 32%.

Whether you’re an educator, parent, student, or dreamer, the John Hopkins study posits an underlying truth — diverse leaders can make a powerful and positive impact on children. By pursuing your MSOL, you can defy outdated biases and antiquated ideas — all while inspiring inclusion and furthering the dreams of future leaders.

Higher ed has the power to lead by example

For adult learners pursuing their higher education, diverse leadership can be equally impactful.

Nicole Miller reiterates that higher education institutes have a unique opportunity to establish an inclusive culture stretching beyond university walls. “Society is changing,” she notes. “Because society is changing, it’s becoming even more critical for us to understand diverse perspectives. It’s higher education’s responsibility to prepare the workforce.”

Building on this notion, Miller expresses the importance of preparing students with the social and relationship skills necessary to foster inclusion when entering the workforce. “Through the lens of DEIB, we can prepare individuals with the language and relationship-building skills necessary to show and reciprocate respect.”

Ready to be a role model for future leaders everywhere? Check out our MSOL Get Started Guide and discover how Goodwin can help you become the trailblazing changemaker you’re meant to be!


Inclusion in corporate America

Embracing diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging isn’t only the responsibility of educators. Organizational leaders also have the potential to make a positive impact on their companies and communities by prioritizing inclusion and self-reflective practices. By stepping into a leadership role and keeping your eyes on equity, you can make a positive impact on the workforce.

Self-reflection improves company culture

As much empathy as we may have for others, there’s no denying that we are all limited by our own perspectives. We each possess a unique understanding of the world, informed by our cultural backgrounds, gender identities, firsthand experiences, and countless other factors. This is no less true for leaders and changemakers.

Miller notes that even the most well-meaning executives operate with intrinsic biases. “When you look at current leadership demographics,” she points out, “it’s overwhelmingly white men. Although they may consider diverse perspectives, there’s a difference between intent and impact.”

According to Miller, this lack of perspective upholds biases. “Most leaders trust who they know, and you’ll find that many leaders’ inner circles are composed of people who look like them.”

Miller stresses that self-awareness is the key to addressing and combatting unintentional biases. “Leaders can’t avoid these issues. In order to prioritize inclusion and belonging, self-reflection must be constant. Leaders need to be willing to engage in the dialogue.”

Diversity redefines decision-making

One of the observed advantages of a diverse leadership team is their collective depth and breadth of experience. Incorporating multiple perspectives in the decision-making process leads to more inclusive practices. As a result, companies meet the needs of more customers, leading to greater efficacy and development.

Moreover, when diverse employees see aspects of their own identities reflected by leadership, it promotes a sense of safety and belonging while demonstrating that high-level roles are achievable by all employees.

Busting biases is better for business

When diverse leadership teams inform decision-making, incredible things happen for corporations and consumers alike.

It’s an irrefutable fact — every day, America becomes more diverse. According to the US Census, 42.2% of Americans now identify as multiracial or non-white. American consumers aren’t only becoming more diverse — they’re also becoming more aware.

With a population that’s growing attuned to the needs and perspectives of others, many Americans have started holding companies and corporations to a higher standard. Furthermore, the accessibility of the internet has made it easier for consumers to have their voices heard. The consensus is in: Americans expect their favorite companies to be inclusive, in-touch, and considerate of diverse consumers.

In the long run, organizations that don’t prioritize diversity will fail in a 21st-century market. In order to thrive and grow in today’s economy, companies must be culturally receptive and responsive. Consider Pride Month. During June, small businesses and large corporations alike make a concentrated effort to acknowledge the LGBTQIA+ community. Aside from supporting, celebrating, and elevating a historically marginalized community, Pride Month attracts business to participating organizations. By advocating for inclusion, companies are more likely to gain the trust and loyalty of Queer and non-binary clients (and advocates, too!)

Establishing inclusion and belonging

Now, more than ever, we need diverse leaders with the perspectives, ideas, and experiences necessary to make a meaningful impact on the landscape of American culture. When you earn your MSOL at Goodwin University, you’ll gain the training and skills necessary to establish an inclusive culture of belonging for students and professionals alike.

Interested in inspiring change? Learn more about earning your MSOL today! Call 800-889-3282 or text 860-467-1511.