College is often touted as a time of broadening horizons — a new place to live, new people to learn from and with, and new topics to study. Many college programs are specifically designed to provide students with new experiences and exposure, such as study abroad programs. Your students may come from all over the world to attend your institution and gain new experiences and insights about the world around them.
But are you truly teaching your students to value the diversity surrounding them? And are they taking that knowledge and culture to their future employers?
Experience suggests that this is an area where we can improve. As Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) become more essential to businesses, we also see that companies have to educate or re-educate their employees on the values, practices, cultures, and habits they wish to see in their environment.
Consider the “Women in the Workplace” report created by McKinsey each year. Though they’ve seen some progress in the female executive pool over the last eight years, women are still massively underrepresented in leadership roles. Women in management report more struggles, microaggressions, and other detrimental culture-driven experiences. This leads women to leave and organizations to face the consequences of less diversity and, often, slowed growth.
If higher education aims to deliver sought-after new employees to the market, it’s time to provide students with the DEI education they need.
How Diversity Education Impacts Campus Culture
DEI education exists to proactively combat biases. While it’s sometimes difficult to face our biases, doing so has consistently led to better outcomes for both culture and performance. A Harvard Business Review study of Venture Capital firms found that one of the most impactful actions was to start incorporating diversity early:
“Decision-makers fare best when they openly acknowledge and address homophily early on, understand that small adjustments in mindset and behavior can have lasting ripple effects, and diversify their personal as well as professional networks.”
Every student is a decision-maker, and starting early is why building DEI education into your campus can yield incredible results. By teaching students to confront their biases in an environment that presents less risk than an employee-company relationship, colleges and universities allow students to begin breaking the habits of bias and thinking differently. This creates a culture of inclusive excellence on your campus, which is just the beginning of the benefits you can see from DEI education.
How Diversity Delivers Benefits to Higher Education
Research has shown a distinct business case for DEI education in organizations. Entrepreneur outlines four of the most common ways that diversity, made possible by DEI education, benefits companies:
- Diversity attracts talent
- Diverse experiences lead to more innovative solutions
- Diversity in thought drives increased customer satisfaction
- A diverse team can resonate with more customers and investors
Let’s consider how these elements translate to higher education.
Diversity attracts talent. Businesses aren’t the only ones looking to attract the best candidates. Recruiting in higher education is critical to building a powerful alumni network to support your school. A diverse culture naturally attracts additional talent and skill to your institution.
Diverse groups create innovative solutions. If your school participates in research of any kind, creating and attracting a diverse student population should be a top priority. The more diverse your student group, the more innovative and creative their research projects, papers, and published works will be. Those efforts contribute directly to your school’s reputation and authority.
Diversity in thought increases customer satisfaction. The customers of a college or university are the students, and retaining your students through graduation has a direct impact on your reputation, recruiting, and alumni network. Students who are happy and confident in the culture you create are more likely to engage in mentoring activities, group work, assistantships, and research opportunities.
Diverse teams resonate with customers. Diverse populations in an accepting culture create a powerful force for good in your campus community. Students who study DEI are able to better express their ideas and opinions and listen to those shared by others. The result of those habits is a group of people who others want to be around, support, and work with.
Building a diversity-friendly campus takes conscious effort. Many colleges and universities are already offering certificate programs in DEI, but not every student chooses to engage in those opportunities. How can campuses offer the most critical DEI information to more students?
How to Provide Valuable DEI Resources to Improve Campus Culture
Don’t put the burden of DEI education on professors to incorporate into their existing curriculum. Instead, provide opportunities for students to focus on DEI topics with groups of students from outside their area of study. FranklinCovey’s LeaderU programs are designed to help students come together and develop the habits that drive positive, inclusive cultures in businesses and higher education. By providing this efficient and targeted training, your college or university will improve campus life and build students into the most coveted new employees.
FranklinCovey’s LeaderU courses facilitate the personal and professional advancement of future leaders by offering a rich library of verifiable certificate programs. LeaderU Knowledge Certificates are industry-recognized as helping develop the career skills of today’s students and tomorrow’s employees. To learn more about the value-add of offering industry-recognized certificate courses to your curriculum, take a tour of the FranklinCovey Education course catalog.