Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Engagement Among Faculty: Impact on Promotion and/or Tenure

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Universities value diversity and contributions to students from diverse backgrounds. However, limited research examines whether diversity contributions among faculty members contribute to more favorable promotion and/or tenure outcomes. Drawing from social categorization theory, this research examines whether contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are being recognized in the promotion and/or tenure process. We focus on the impact of diversity contributions on career outcomes for faculty of color. Our evaluation involves a critical examination of the linguistic features of external review letters–the most critical component of most promotion and tenure applications. Our sample consists of 6,413 external review letters (ERLs) for 1,072 candidates who are seeking promotion and/or tenure from three universities to examine promotion and/or tenure decisions and further our understanding of the barriers to promotion and/or tenure for minority faculty. To test the effect of race on DEI language, I performed a linear mixed-effect analysis to account for the nested structure of the data. Additionally, a multiple regression model was conducted to examine the relationship between DEI language and voting outcome with race as a moderator. The results indicate candidate race was linked to more DEI language in ERLs. Additionally, race significantly moderated the relationship between DEI language and promotion and/or tenure outcomes. Specifically, Hispanic candidates with low levels of DEI-related language in ERLs had similar chances of receiving unfavorable votes at the college level and negative Provost votes as White candidates, but the slopes are larger for Hispanic candidates, creating a larger disparity at higher levels of DEI language, and thus hurting their chance at promotion. Similar patterns emerged for Black candidates, such that higher levels of DEI-related language led to unfavorable votes at the department, and university levels, compared to White candidates. The findings further our understanding of how diversity contribution is perceived and evaluated within the promotion 2 and/or tenure system. Theoretically, the present research contributes to organizational diversity literature by furthering our understanding of how diversity efforts are linked to backlash behaviors within the academy and emphasize the need for researchers to continue to examine faculty diversity contributions. Practically, this research highlights the shortcomings of the use of ERLs and the need for universities to implement formal policies to improve its validity.

Diversity, Promotion, Tenure, Hiring