The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

A Look at Diversity in Higher Ed Positions

Yesterday at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2016 in Washington, D.C., CUPA-HR’s Director of Research Jacqueline Bichsel, Ph.D., shared the results of a longitudinal analysis of higher ed diversity in executive, administrative and professional positions. Here are a few of the highlights from her research:

Bichsel found that the higher education pay gap roughly mirrors the overall U.S. pay gap. What women earn in comparison to men on the dollar increased slightly from 2001 until the recession. Now it looks to be on a slightly decreasing trajectory. Although one might expect higher education in general to be more progressive in paying males and females equitably, the evidence shows that’s not the case.



As we go from administrator  positions having the least pay to the greatest pay, we see fewer females in these positions. In general, since 2001, there has been a trend toward hiring more women for each type of position but the percentage of females in top executive positions remains less than 30 percent.


Over time, the representation of minorities in administrator positions has increased only slightly while the U.S. minority population has increased (not so slightly). However, minorities are far from being represented proportionately in these positions, as indicated by the wide gap between these lines, a gap that appears to be — if anything — widening.



Here’s some good news — when minorities are hired for administrator positions, they tend to be paid equitably or more than equitably. This may indicate a desire on the part of institutions to hire and retain ethnic minorities. The question then becomes how do higher education employers get more ethnic minorities into the pipeline to be hired into these positions? (You can check out this blog post or CUPA-HR’s e-learning course Building a Successful, More Inclusive Search for some guidance on making the search process more inclusive.)

Key Takeaways?

Overall, women are well-represented in most positions (more so in those that don’t pay as much), but they are underrepresented in the highest-level positions with the highest pay, and the wage gap is present at nearly all levels.

Racial or ethnic minorities are underrepresented in nearly every position, but in most positions where they are represented, their pay is at or above equity.