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Diverse international recruiters at a desk interviewing a candidate

Recruitment diversity is a concept that encompasses more than we sometimes realize.

Topics related to race, gender, nationality and sexuality tend to frame many discussions on building more inclusive environments, but there is so much more to understanding diversity.

It can also include disabilities, a person’s socio-economic background, age, education, religious beliefs and political opinions.

For those who work in education, a strong understanding of just how wide-ranging diversity can be is crucial because our schools are increasingly among the most varied spaces you’ll find.

So, why is diversity recruiting important in education?

To answer that question, you need to consider it from more than one angle.

On the one hand, the primary purpose of education is mission-based, with the aim being to equip future generations with the skills they’ll need to improve our society.

Recruiting educators from different backgrounds can help achieve that goal.

But, it’s also true that there are more pragmatic reasons for schools embracing diverse hiring.

To prosper in a world where people are arguably more socially conscious, it’s vital that schools reflect the values of students and teachers who populate their classrooms or risk becoming obsolete.

We’ve used research compiled by the International School Human Resources Association (ISCHR) to highlight five reasons schools should implement a more diverse recruitment strategy.

This is what we’ll cover:

1. Diverse faculties improve student engagement and retention.

2. Recruitment diversity boosts academic achievement.

3. A diverse hiring strategy can protect your school’s reputation.

4. Culturally aware teachers help students compete on a global scale.

5. Diverse faculties reduce discrimination claims.

1. Diverse faculties improve student engagement and retention.

students of different backgrounds casually chatting

How can you be expected to do well in school if you’ve never been taught by a teacher who can relate to your lived experiences?

Success in the classroom largely depends on effective communication between students and faculty.

But, if none of your teachers share your cultural identity, how can you build a positive relationship with someone you have little in common with?

Let’s take the public school system in California as an example.

According to a recent report in Edsource, “While nearly 3 out of 4 public school students are non-white, approximately two-thirds of our teachers are white.”

The report also notes a severe shortage of qualified Black male teachers working in K-12 schools.

Indeed, just 1% of teachers in California are Black males, even though almost 40% of the population identifies as non-white.

There is a direct correlation between the performance of Black students and the number of Black teachers instructing them.

A 2017 study by Johns Hopkins University revealed that drop-out rates reduced by more than 29% amongst Black students taught by a Black teacher between grades one and three.

Although this data is U.S.-centric, there are implications for international education.

Most teachers from the U.S. who take up positions in international education are White and often hail from relatively privileged backgrounds.

Educators who’ve spent all their lives in Western classrooms may not be ready to confront their own cultural bias.

Plus, the status afforded them by their new employers can negatively impact teachers and students from minority groups, as well as local staff.

But HR teams in international schools can help.

One of the best practices for recruiting teachers is to hire from more diverse backgrounds.

That way, HR teams can help tackle unconscious bias, foster a sense of community, and prioritize equity for all students and staff.

Here are some useful ideas on how schools can diversify their teaching workforce.

2. Recruitment diversity boosts academic achievement.

When we talk about the link between improved academic results and hiring teachers from diverse backgrounds, the focus is usually on providing greater support for students from minority groups who are often disadvantaged.

There’s plenty of research indicating that exposing students of color to teachers of color results in better grades.

This makes perfect sense.

If you place a successful teacher-of-color at the head of your classroom, that’s often enough to give students from the same race a greater incentive to do well in school.

This is known as the role model effect.

What tends to get overlooked is that teachers of color can positively impact all students, regardless of demographics.

According to ISCHR, a survey of postgraduate students conducted by communications specialists Bernard Hodes Group revealed that 84% of all respondents felt that “minority professors positively impacted the education of non-minority students.”

Participants in the survey noted how they felt stimulated by a wider range of course content and the fresh perspectives and different ideas presented to them by diverse faculty members.

By implementing a diverse hiring strategy, you’re allowing your students to improve their critical thinking skills and develop a more informed worldview.

3. A diverse faculty can enhance your school’s reputation.

multi cultural faculty of teachers at a meeting table

As consumers, we are pickier about who we connect with and who we choose to buy from.

International schools depend primarily on their ability to attract students, and students are attracted to schools that display ethics that align with their own.

Younger people, for example, are far more likely to take a firm stance on social issues like anti-racism, LGBTQ+ rights, and gender equality.

But what does this mean for schools?

It means schools must be more authentic, transparent and have clear values that potential students can see.

In 2021, your average Gen Z will quickly decide from your school’s website and social media channels whether you’re a business they want to engage with.

So, if you plan to develop a diverse recruiting strategy or have already implemented one, this must come across in your school marketing strategy.

Here are a few things worth considering:

  • If you employ a diverse faculty, does this come across on your school website?
  • Are teacher profiles regularly updated, and are they personalized?
  • Are there authentic photos on your website that champion diversity?
  • If you support diversity & inclusion, is this clear on your about page?
  • Are you creating content that supports more diverse spaces, or is it all just window dressing that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny?

The importance of this last point can’t be overstated.

What’s worse? A business that lacks clear values, or one that doesn’t really believe in the cause they’re supporting?

4. Culturally aware teachers help students compete on a global scale.

When thinking about how to increase diversity through your recruitment practices, it’s worth considering the growing importance of cross-cultural communication.

The COVID-19 pandemic has normalized remote work for many of us, creating a culture of collaboration where borders are no longer seen as a stumbling block.

For this reason, workplace success will depend mainly on our ability to communicate effectively in a global context.

Culturally aware teachers from diverse backgrounds can help students prepare for the challenges they’ll face in multiple ways.

teacher helping her student at a laptop

From exposing students to different cultures and customs to helping them overcome language barriers and identify subtle differences in business etiquette.

Even overcoming the demands of globalization is considered a crucial 21st-century skill.

By promoting inclusive hiring, schools can equip their students with the skills they’ll need to succeed in the modern world and empower them to become more productive citizens.

5. Diverse faculties reduce discrimination claims.

If your school has a largely homogenous faculty, you’re not only preventing your students from enjoying the benefits of inclusive education, but you could also face accusations of discrimination.

Teachers from diverse backgrounds want to work at schools where they feel welcomed and valued.

rear view of person in wheelchair on a ramp

HR teams that don’t have a diversity policy in place run the risk of alienating staff members who don’t conform to your schools’ dominant culture.

Now, this might simply result in a workplace with a high staff turnover that feels like a constant revolving door.

After all, why would you want to work long-term at a place where you don’t feel your thoughts and opinions matter?

But, in more severe circumstances, failing to prioritize diversity in your recruitment strategy can result in costly discrimination cases, where individuals feel they have been unfairly treated because of how they self-identify.

So, aside from hiring a more diverse team of teachers, how else can schools protect themselves from potential litigation claims?

The best form of defence is to be proactive, which means making diversity a central part of your school’s workplace culture.

Suppose you have a clear policy on Diversity & Inclusion that is written down and practised on a consistent basis at your school.

In that case, you’ll not only reduce the risk of a lawsuit, you’ll also attract and retain teachers from different cultural backgrounds.

As the ISCHR notes in its report on hiring diverse faculties, “An easily observable commitment to diversity {…} provides a strong defense to claims of discrimination.”

Unfortunately, we tend to view HR in international schools as purely administrative, their job being to process contracts, visas and fix logistical problems.

But, if given a bit more freedom, HR can play a decisive role in helping to identify diverse talent and protect schools from legal difficulties.

Here are some useful tips on how your HR team can create a clear diversity policy that includes the entire school community.

Final Thoughts

A common accusation the Diversity & Inclusion movement often faces is that it’s not merit-based.

In the context of this article, “why should someone be entitled to a teaching job because of how they self-identify?”

But what invalidates this argument is that Diversity & Inclusion is not about “entitlement,” it’s about preventing one dominant workplace culture from having total control.

By encouraging more diverse voices to have a say, you can allow new ideas and innovative techniques to improve your school’s performance.

At Teach Away, we’re proud of our recruitment platform, which promotes a diversity mindset with teachers from all around the world.