How do people in leadership positions think about and approach the topic of diversity and inclusion? This was a question John Singer, of Texas A&M University, and his colleagues recently explored.
They focused on college athletics, and specifically, two major athletic departments that had African American men serving as the athletic director.
To collect the data, the researchers spent time on the campuses, speaking with the athletic directors, their coaches, the players, and other staff members. They also interviewed campus administrators and people in the community. Finally, they analyzed organizational documents and articles written about the units.
Results of their study suggested that the athletic directors focused their diversity and inclusion efforts on increasing the number of women and racial minorities in leadership roles. Both groups make up a large segment of the athletes in athletics in the US, but the leadership ranks have been traditionally filled by men and Whites. The leaders in this study sought to rectify these disparities.
They also believed a diverse staff brought considerable value to the workplace, including role modeling and mentoring functions. These were especially useful for young administrators and athletes, as they were able to see people like themselves in key leadership roles.
To illustrate, one athletic director commented, “I want our female athletes to see a female in power, in a leadership role because that gives them confidence, you know?” Participants throughout the study echoed similar sentiments.
The results show that, at least for these two athletic departments, the leaders were thoughtful and intentional in their diversity efforts. They took steps to become more diverse units, as doing so benefited everyone in the unit.