As a student of geology, I never had a professor of color. That's not to say none exist (I've even become one!), but I would guess that the vast major of geology students in the United States have had the same experience as I have. If you've never thought about this, it's probably because you never had to think about it, never had to feel othered, or questioned your place within our field.
I started looking for data on the ethnic and racial diversity of geoscience faculty while putting together my GSA talk a few months ago, and quickly discovered that no good data exists. NSF provides excellent data on Earth Science undergrads, graduate students, and postdocs in the annual Science & Engineering Indicators Report. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) keeps tabs on the demographics of college and university faculty but does not break down the data by subject. The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) collects data on the geoscience workforce at large, but does not provide any specific information about college and university faculty.
Better understanding the racial and ethnic demographics of geoscience faculty would be helpful in creating successful educational systems that support our students of color. Since I can't find the specific data I want, I thought I would work through some of the available data mentioned above.
Let's start with the United States as a whole. It's good to have a baseline when talking about underrepresentation. Here's what the U.S. population looks like, as of 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:
White (not Hispanic or Latino) accounts for 61.6% of the population, Hispanic or Latino for 17.6%, Black or African American for 13.3%, Asian for 5.6%, two or more races for 2.6%, American Indian or Native Alaskan for 1.2%, and Native Hawaiian for 0.2%.
According to NCES, college and university faculty are much whiter than the U.S. population, with Profs of Color accounting for about half the share "expected" from national demographics:
The most recent NSF Science & Engineering indicators report suggests that Profs of Color represent about the same share of full-time Physical Sciences faculty (6.7%). API profs comprise a much larger share of full-time faculty in the Physical Sciences (16.9%) than they do in all disciplines (9%). The share of Profs of Color has grown steadily since the 70's but there is still severe underrepresentation when compared to the U.S. population as a whole.
So what can these data tell us about Profs of Color within the geosciences? Because we know that the geosciences are less diverse than Physical Sciences as a whole, we can probably assume that geoscience faculty are less diverse than Physical Sciences faculty. We can't know for sure, but I would love to get my hands on (or collect) these data for the geosciences.
As the discussion around diversity in geoscience grows, knowing where we stand is important. It's also a good reminder for existing faculty to go the extra distance to be good allies and mentor for their students of color. Even if we make a concerted effort to recruit more students of color into the geosciences, it will be a long time before we have equal representation simply because it takes a long time to educate and employ a new cohort of diverse faculty.