Gordon C. Nagayama Hall, Ph.D.

Life in the Intersection

Psychology Is like Oregon

Workforce diversity

Posted May 29, 2017

USGS/Wikimedia Commons
Source: USGS/Wikimedia Commons

Psychology and Oregon are alike. Both are progressive. Psychology dropped homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1975. Oregon legalized same-sex marriage in 2014.

There is another way psychology and Oregon are alike. Neither is very diverse. Only one in every eight people in Oregon is not white. And only about one in every eight psychologists is not white. In contrast, nearly one in every four people in the United States is not white.

So, who cares? Many Oregonians do, but some don’t. There are two common arguments I’ve heard from those who don’t. The first is color blindness. “I don’t see color.” With so few non-white people in the state, I suppose many Oregonians actually don’t see much color. But psychologists have contended that denying that color and race exist serves to justify the non-diverse status quo.

The second argument I’ve heard is that Oregon has relative diversity. “We are more racially diverse that we used to be.” However, Oregon’s racial makeup is about the same now as it was two decades ago. White people’s standards for diversity are lower than the standards of people of color. If most people look like you, seeing someone who doesn’t signals diversity. If most people don’t look like you, seeing someone who does signals how few of you there are.

Oregon does not necessarily need to look like the rest of the nation. But some psychologists are concerned about the lack of diversity in the psychology workforce. After all, psychologists work all over the nation, not just in one state. Perhaps psychology can learn a lesson from Oregon. Color blindness or being content with relative diversity might hold you back from becoming more diverse.

Sunset/Sandy Horvath-Dori/Wikimedia Commons
Source: Sunset/Sandy Horvath-Dori/Wikimedia Commons

A third similarity between Psychology and Oregon is that both are changeable. Although Oregon’s racial diversity hasn’t changed, its weather does. The joke in Oregon is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 20 minutes." The joke about psychologists is, “How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? One, but the lightbulb has to want to change.” Wanting to change its workforce demographics could be a good start for psychology.


Michalski, D. S., & Kohout, J. L. (2011). The state of the psychology health service provider workforce.  American Psychologist, 66, 825-834. doi: 10.1037/a0026200

Neville, H. A., Awad, G. H., Brooks, J. E., Flores, M. P., & Bluemel, J. (2013). Color-blind racial ideology: Theory, training, and measurement implications in psychology. American Psychologist, 68, 455–466. doi:10.1037/a0033282

Unzueta, M. M., & Binning, K. R. (2012). Diversity is in the eye of the beholder: How concern for the in-group affects perceptions of racial diversity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 26-38. doi: 10.1177/0146167211418528