Where's the big idea?

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The extent to which University staff represent the demographics of the community that they serve may be a key indicator of whether institutions are missing talent, perspectives and ideas as a result of their employment preferences.

The world’s most comprehensive database of university performance, developed by Curtin University’s Open Knowledge Initiative (COKI), offers the opportunity to better understand staff diversity trends, COKI Research Fellow Dr Katie Wilson said.

“Universities often say they are committed to hiring the best talent regardless of gender or cultural group, but in reality, women make up only 20-30% of senior management in universities around the world, and there is also a lot more to be done on hiring people from diverse cultural backgrounds,” Dr Wilson said.

“It’s easy for Universities to produce a hiring policy and some nice words to affirm their commitment to employing people with diverse ideas and perspectives, but our research shows that those words are frequently not reflected by reality.

“When major international issues like COVID-19 or climate change arise, most universities agree in their marketing materials that effective solutions to complex problems requires bright minds and diverse perspectives – but COKI’s data shows that in reality, many universities are a long way from achieving that goal.

“Diversity of voices also means considering new research that is published outside of western countries, in languages other than English. Most of the academic world focuses attention on journals and publications that are in English and published in developed nations, but in fact there is extensive research being conducted in South America, Africa and across Asia that presents valuable new ideas and knowledge.

“Diversity is not just a nice thing for universities to do – it is critical if we are going to hear from the best talent in our next generation and get on with developing solutions to some of the world’s most critical problems.

“The COKI index is shining a light on how universities actually practice diversity – nice words in brochures are no longer going to be enough.”