This report presents the results of the first and fourth Diversity Practitioner Surveys. NAIS conducted this research as part of a strategic initiative with the long-term goal of creating a comprehensive body of knowledge on diversity practice within independent schools. The research includes information on how diversity is being implemented at independent schools and on the roles, responsibilities, demographic characteristics, and backgrounds of diversity practitioners.
Diversity practice in independent schools changed considerably between 2009 and 2019. NAIS research shows that the scope of the diversity practitioner role grew and the cultural challenges schools had to manage increased in complexity.
Slightly more than half of the diversity practitioners surveyed in 2019 perform the diversity function full time (54%), compared to only 34% a decade earlier. Additionally, practitioners are more likely to hold no additional roles or titles (23% in 2019; 15% in 2009), showing the increasing recognition of the importance of the role.
While the position of diversity practitioner has become more substantial and formal, there remains work to be done. For instance, less than half (46%) of practitioners report the development of a formal strategic diversity plan by themselves or their schools. This is similar to the rate in 2009 (48%). Practitioners report a slight decline in perceived support from parents/guardians (34% in 2019; 40% in 2009) and staff (33% compared to 41%). Support from the head of school, however, has increased in the last 10 years from 58% to 66%.
When asked about their schools, practitioners in 2019 are less satisfied with the degree of diversity and inclusion than respondents in 2009. Since 2009, practitioners are less likely to see diversity and inclusion included in their school’s mission statement (54% in 2019, 66% in 2009), admissions (47% compared to 65%), and marketing and communications (34% in 2019 and 53% in 2009). Although financial aid was not included in the 2009 survey, the percentage of practitioners who see diversity and inclusion in financial aid has fallen by 12 percentage points in the last five years.
These findings over the past decade show both the recognition and the respect the role of diversity practitioner is gaining but also the real challenges facing diversity practitioners in independent schools today.