Co-Founder and CEO of Men of Color in Educational Leadership (MCEL), Harrison Peters, has spent the majority of his career working to diversify education leadership across the United States. As a veteran educator, Peters has seen first-hand how a lack of diversity in educational leadership can create a wide range of issues. He believes that diversifying educational leadership can have a wide range of benefits for students, teachers, and future generations to come.
Making an Example
Change has to start somewhere, and unfortunately, it’s currently not in the higher ranks of educational administration. According to a CUPA-HR report, less than 8 percent of administrators and executive leadership are Black or African American, and more than 80 percent represent majority groups. “Diversifying educational leadership isn’t done overnight, we understand that,” Peters says. “But what we can do is start looking at our own school districts and making sure we’re seeing diversity in our leadership. If not, lead by example.”
Striving to create a diversified leadership within educational institutions can have a ripple effect on the entire school community. In addition to creating a more inclusive space, diversifying leadership can also help create stronger relationships between students and teachers. According to Peters, having leaders that reflect the diversity of the student body helps bring understanding, trust, and respect between them.
In addition to the visible representation of diversity, diversifying leadership also helps to break down barriers that have been established within the education system. It’s no secret that Blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in higher education, and it’s no secret that students and academia continue to reel from the effects of segregation. Up until 1954, before Brown v. Board of Education, African-Americans were intentionally kept out of higher education and segregated from whites. By diversifying educational leadership, Peters seeks to break down these barriers and create a level playing field for all students.
“We have to make sure that our schools are open, accessible, and equitable for all,” Peters says. “That means doing away with systemic racism, which is perpetuated by a lack of diversity in leadership. We have to create more pathways for people of color, and more opportunities for them to rise through the ranks. That’s how we will begin to see real change.”
In order for educational institutions to truly benefit from diversifying leadership, they must take a holistic approach and commit resources to make it happen. This means investing in people of color and providing access to higher education and mentorship opportunities. It also means creating a safe and inclusive environment for diversity within the leadership ranks, so that all voices can be heard and respected.
By bringing in diverse perspectives from those in leadership positions, educators can better understand and serve their students’ unique cultures and backgrounds. This allows for more meaningful connections between teachers, as well as a safe space for students to express their ideas without fear of judgment or misunderstanding.
Peters believes that by diversifying leadership, we can create a stronger, more diverse educational system—one which will benefit not only our current students and teachers but future generations as well. “Diversity in education brings a different point of view to the table,” he says. “It opens up conversations and discussions which can help shape the future of our educational system.”
For students in the United States that are children to immigrant parents, are first-generation college students, or are from traditionally marginalized communities, having leaders that reflect their culture and background can create a sense of belonging as well. Diversifying educational leadership is not only about representation, it’s also about creating a level playing field for everyone.
Improved Teacher Retention
While educators continue to dedicate their careers to the betterment of their students, it’s clear that there’s room for improvement when it comes to teacher retention. With diverse leadership in place, teachers are more likely to stay in the profession due to improved working conditions, better pay, and the knowledge that their work can contribute to a career in higher-level leadership.
For those teachers that are jaded by the educational system, having diverse leaders in place can be a source of inspiration. Peters believes that by leading the way with representation and breaking down barriers, educational institutions can help create a brighter future for their teachers and inspire life-long careers.
Diversification is Key to Better Education
Ultimately, diversifying education leadership is beneficial not only to students and teachers but also to the entire system at large. With leaders from all backgrounds, educational institutions can create more equitable pathways for students and staff while also providing valuable insight into how to best serve the needs of its diverse population. In turn, this can lead to better outcomes in education and help to close the achievement gap that exists between underrepresented students and their peers.
About Harrison Peters
Harrison Peters is the CEO of Men of Color in Educational Leadership (MCEL) and a fierce advocate of diversified educational leadership. He has spent his career in various administrative roles in large school districts and continues to pursue his mission of making education more equitable and accessible to all. Through his work with MCEL, Peters is dedicated to creating a more diverse and inclusive leadership culture within educational institutions and empowering educators from all backgrounds.