JITE v32n4 - At Issue - Diversity or Conformity?

Volume 32, Number 4
Summer 1995

Diversity or Conformity?

Thomas L. Erekson
Bowling Green State University
Donna K. Trautman
Bowling Green State University

Over the past few decades, there has been a call by the profession to diversify university faculty--to increase the representation of minorities and women. Associations in the field, such as the International Technology Education Association (1994), also promote this goal. Despite the interest and professional support, the goal has not yet been achieved. Erekson and Gloeckner (1988) found that 90.38 % of the faculty listed in the Industrial Teacher Education Directory were white and that 95.5 % were men. It is doubtful that the situation has changed in the past seven years. Our profession appears to remain homogeneous--and predominantly white male.

Why is the profession homogenous? A common answer is that very few minority or women candidates have the required academic credentials to seek university employment in our field. In effect, the pool of available candidates is perceived as being limited. Job announcements requiring qualifications that are too narrowly focused may not attract minority and female candidates and could reinforce the homogeneous nature of our profession.

How can professionals in industrial teacher education increase the pool of women and minority faculty? One suggested solution has been to identify and nurture high school or college minority and female students who might be interested in entering our profession. These nurtured individuals would then be encouraged to pursue graduate programs that will prepare them for academic careers in the profession. However, it may take decades to diversify our profession using this strategy. Can our profession wait decades to reflect the diversity found in the population?

Will this nurturing strategy really increase the diversity of the profession? We have serious doubts that it will. While it may increase the number of minority and women faculty, these faculty may be forced into a mold that has been established by a white male tradition. Will new faculty be required to conform, or feel that they have to conform, to the norm of the profession with its traditions, programs, and practices? As we seek new faculty who have been nurtured and prepared for academe through the traditional doctoral programs, we must ask if these doctoral programs embrace diversity or mold candidates in the white male traditions of the profession. Are we developing a diverse faculty or perpetuating conformity?

Like teacher education, technology is a very complex and diverse field, and this diversity may be one reason why many of us have been drawn to it. From theory to practice, from problem solving to the implementation of a plan, technology is exciting and thrives on change. While most of us understand, accept, and welcome technological change, we seem to resist the changing nature and increasing diversity of the workforce and student population. We must encourage more women and minorities to enter our profession, and we must learn from them. This includes women and minorities in other fields. Women and minority faculty who have been prepared through doctoral programs in other fields bring not only new perspectives of diversity, but also perspectives from other professions and disciplines.

Major corporations like Hewlett Packard, Digital Equipment Corporation, Honeywell, McDonald's, and Proctor and Gamble have recognized the success and strength gained by embracing diversity. These companies have implemented training courses, public relations themes, and programs to celebrate the diversity of their workforce (Motwani, Harper, Subramanian, & Douglas, 1993). For example, Hewlett Packard, with 60,000 employees, recognized a weakness in management regarding their respect of cultural differences and the need for all employees to be treated without prejudice. As a result, Hewlett Packard developed a "Managing Diversity" program in 1988 that "stresses diversity as a competitive advantage" (Caudron, 1993, p. 55).

If we want our profession to be more diverse, we must be better prepared to change. For example, administrators and supervisors may not be prepared to manage a diverse group. It is often easier to manage a homogeneous group in which traditional qualifications can be judged. It is more difficult to evaluate each person's strengths and unique contributions. As stated by Coleman at a technology education leadership development meeting (1994), managing diversity challenges us all to "create and maintain an environment where each person is respected because of their [sic] differences, and where all can contribute and receive rewards based on their results." We need to defend and strengthen our profession with diversity.

Because changing demographics and a variety of economic and social shifts will continue to increase the diversity of the student population at colleges and universities in the United States, we need to act now. Employing minority and women faculty and providing opportunities for them should be a priority. No longer should we develop talent solely from within the current system. We should value and evaluate women and minorities on their unique qualifications, contributions, and professional abilities. We must become more aware of the cultural diversity among our students and colleagues. We should learn more about other cultures, and we should value individuals for their unique perspectives.

To enhance the future of our profession, we must be proactive. We must ultimately decide if we want to move toward diversity or maintain conformity.


Erekson is Professor and Dean, College of Technology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio.

Trautman is Assistant Professor, Visual Communication and Technology Education Department, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio.


Caudron, S. (1993). Successful companies realize that diversity is a long-term process, not a program. Personnel Journal, 72 (4), 54-55.

Coleman, T. (1994, May 25). Valuing diversity in the workplace and classroom. Paper presented at the Technology Education Leadership Development Program, Orlando, FL.

Erekson, T. L., & Gloeckner, G. W. (1988). A descriptive analysis of factors related to university employment in industrial education. NAITTE Professional Monograph No. 3.

International Technology Education Association. (1993). ITEA strategic plan. The Technology Teacher, 52 (7), 5-7.

Motwani, J., Harper, E., Subramanian, R., & Douglas, C. (1993). Managing the diversified workforce: Current efforts and future directions. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 58 (3), 16-21.

Tracy Gilmore