Mainstream Environmental Organizations Could Benefit by Hiring Qualified, Interested Minority Candidates with Environmental and


A new study suggests mainstream environmental organizations, which have been criticized over the last 15 years for lacking racial diversity, may be passing over qualified minority candidates who are interested in working for these nonprofits and have realistic salary expectations.

"The notion that minorities do not want to work for environmental organizations and demand high salaries which preclude them from being hired is a myth," contends Dorceta Taylor, an associate professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment who studied the employment preferences and salary expectations of college-level environmental and engineering students over a two-year period.

"Minority students are being trained in environmental disciplines, thereby creating a robust pool of talent," she says. "My research shows they express the same willingness as white students to work for environmental organizations, and at minimum salaries well within the range these groups are willing to pay."

Between 2004 and 2006, minorities constituted only 14.6% of the staff employees at mainstream environmental organizations, and 35% of those groups indicated they had no non-whites on their payrolls at all. "Hiring minorities would enable environmental nonprofits and government environmental agencies to tap into the skills and abilities of a rapidly growing segment of the work force," Taylor adds. "To be competitive in the long run, these groups must look for the most skilled and talented candidates."

For her study, Taylor conducted a national survey, between October 2003 and May 2005, of college students in five life-sciences fields (biological sciences, forestry, natural resource management, agricultural sciences, and environment sciences), a physical science field, an engineering field and two social-science groups.

She investigated the students' willingness upon graduation to work in five types of institutions (academia, governmental agencies, for-profit corporations, environmental organizations and other nonprofits) and asked them about the minimum salaries they were willing to accept.

Taylor examined 1,234 survey responses completed by students at 185 colleges and universities, representing a 25% response rate. Of the 1,219 students who identified their racial backgrounds, 28.5% were members of minority groups (Asian, Hispanic, black and Native American) and 71.5% were white. In looking at gender, the respondent group included 708 females and 506 males. The 1,228 respondents identifying their student status included 501 doctoral, 515 masterí¢â‚¬â„¢s and 212 bachelorí¢â‚¬â„¢s degree students.

Taylor's findings reveal that the students had a strong sense of where they were willing to work, what kinds of jobs they considered ideal, and the amount of salary they could expect upon entering the work force.

However, she identified some racial and gender differences that proved perplexing. For example, her results indicate women have lower salary expectations than men while minorities have higher salary expectations than whites. Yet, in reality, both women and minorities tend to earn less than white men.

"Lower salary expectations among female workers may be attributable to a different sense of entitlement than men, other non-monetary sources of job satisfaction, or comparisons with other women who also are under-compensated," Taylor speculates. "The racial and gender gaps in salary may be explained by disparities in hiring practices, job responsibilities or experience levels, or by discrimination on the part of employers."

Taylor's article, "Employment Preferences and Salary Expectations of Students in Science and Engineering,í¢â‚¬  appeared in the February 2007 issue of BioScience (Vol. 57, No.2).

By Claudia Capos

For more information, contact Cynthia Shaw at or call 734-763-6605.