• Special Feature / Interview
  • 02.16.21

CUPA-HR Tools to Support Employee DEI Goals

  • by eAIR

eAIR sat down with Jacqueline Bichsel, Ph.D., Director of Research at CUPA-HR, to learn more about its suite of tools and resources that can help IR and HR support employee diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. 


For those in the AIR community who are not familiar with the CUPA-HR survey—describe a bit of the history, purpose, and goals of the project. 

CUPA-HR maintains one of the largest workforce databases in existence. For more than 50 years, we have provided higher ed institutions with the most up-to-date, reliable, and comprehensive salary, benefits, and workforce data available. We would not be able to do that without the consistent participation of approximately 1,200 institutions each year. Four of five institutions that participate in our surveys have been providing us with data for more than ten years. 

We collect data in five higher ed workforce surveys: 

Our four core workforce surveys (faculty, administrators, professionals, and staff) are primarily known as the preeminent source for salary benchmarking in higher ed. For the past five years, we have also collected demographic data on all employees in these surveys: gender, race/ethnicity, age, and years in position/rank. As a result, we now have the most comprehensive data available for the higher ed workforce.

Could you briefly describe some of diversity trends among higher education staff? Where are we making progress, and where is there still work to do?

We regularly publish our findings on diversity trends, both in our annual reports and on our site. Our research reports, briefs, and interactive graphics contain deep dives into representation and pay equity for specific facets of the higher ed workforce. Although it’s not easy to briefly describe diversity trends for the entire higher workforce, there are a few general conclusions we can draw from the data:

  • Women are underpaid in nearly every position in higher ed.
  • Women and racial/ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the highest-paying positions and overrepresented in the lowest-paying positions.
  • For certain key leadership positions, women and minorities are paid more than white men, indicating there may be an effort on the part of some higher ed institutions to attract and retain women and minorities in these positions. However, overall, gaps in representation and pay for both women and minorities have persisted for decades, and there is no indication that we have made much progress in closing those gaps. 

How can institutions use the CUPA-HR survey tools to support their institution’s diversity goals for staff? 

Many institutions make use of our demographic benchmarking reports in DataOnDemand (DOD), a subscription tool that allows institutions to access salary and demographic data for comparison groups they define themselves. For example, an institution can create a comparison group that consists of R2 doctoral institutions within their geographic region. They can then obtain statistics on the pay and representation of women and minorities for this comparison group and compare their own institution’s pay and representation for either a single position or a group of positions.

Institutions that wish to make progress in their DEI efforts can also use our DEI Maturity Index. This tool helps them assess their institution’s progress in five key areas and helps them focus their resources and efforts in more meaningful ways. It also contains recommendations for making progress in each of the areas. Used with the DOD demographic reports, these are powerful tools that can help institutions move from talk to action in their DEI efforts.

What recommendations would you have for institutions who have never used the survey or reports before?

Institutions who wish to get started in providing data for our surveys will have their next opportunity this fall when our surveys open for data collection around November 1. More information about getting started can be found here.

IR professionals who wish to use our data should first consult with the HR department at their institution to see which DOD subscriptions the institution has already purchased. Their HR department has representatives who can provide others at the institution with access to DOD. Then it just becomes a matter of learning how to use DOD and accessing all these data!

This is a real opportunity for IR and HR to come together and pool their resources and expertise to make data-driven decisions about the higher ed workforce. The CUPA-HR team is available to help facilitate these connections and discussions. We can be reached at research@cupahr.org