Valuing diversity, Part 1

For the next few months, we will look at the MnSCU leadership competencies associated with Leader as Relationship Builder.  Our March focus is on valuing diversity.  We’re pleased to start off with a two-part post by guest blogger Ka Vang, Diversity Programs Director.

Why should leaders value diversity?

Imagine this – It is your first day in a high-level leadership position at your school.  Looking out the window, the sun is beaming bright and the birds are chirping. Everything is looking good until your phone rings. It’s a local television news reporter. Someone has written a racial epithet in your school’s women’s restroom. The reporter wants to know how you will address the racial epithet, as well as this afternoon’s student protest scheduled to bring focus to diversity-related issues at your school. She also asked the following questions: Does your school have a diversity plan? What is the graduation rate of your students of color? Do you value diversity as a leader?

Let’s unpack this scenario by focusing on the last question by the reporter: Do you value diversity as a leader?  One of the leadership competencies for a successful leader within Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is valuing diversity.  The assumption is that a leader is also a relationship builder. In order to build relationships, a leader must be able to work with and value people with various communication, age, religious, ethnic, racial and ability differences.  There are over a dozen reasons why diversity benefits the workforce, particularly in higher education, but I will focus only on a few. Diversity in your leadership will:

  • Prevent “group think” and lead to better decision making, problem solving, creativity and innovation.
  • Contribute to employee and student recruitment, retention and productivity.
  • Reflect and connect to the population your school serves.
  • Promote inclusiveness and access for historical disadvantage populations that have not been served by higher education.

As leaders, we cannot ignore diversity.  We need our employees and students to reflect our changed society. In Part 2, we’ll look at some of the ways it has changed and ways leaders can respond.

Ka Vang

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