Reduce Bias, Increase Diversity: Steps for Better Faculty Recruitment
Despite our best intentions, we all perceive and treat people differently based on race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other factors.
These expectations or stereotypes, called schemas, are especially apparent in more ambiguous, stressful, and time-sensitive situations like the recruitment of diverse faculty.
That’s because departmental policies embody schemas and they create a self-reinforcing cycle. This is visible in:
- The tendency to under-value people who do not fit conventional definitions of the discipline
- The concentration of white men in leadership positions
- Narrow and homogeneous social and professional networks
- Late and reactive implementation of family-friendly policies
In particular, schemas interfere with the hiring — and retention — of diverse individuals in:
- Evaluation of resumes, CVs, job credentials, and fellowship applications
- Letters of recommendation, with noticeable differences in length, commentary, and personal characteristics mentioned for men and women
- Salary, promotion, prestige, and advancement over time as small imbalances and disadvantages accrue
- Perceptions of who is in leadership positions
But we can break the cycle by:
- Increasing awareness of bias and how it leads to overlooking talent, using tools such as Project Implicit’s Implicit Association Test
- Developing more explicit hiring criteria to decrease ambiguity
- Updating departmental policies and practices
More specifically, examine policies on:
- Prime the pump. Searching begins before the position is available.
- Know your search committee’s composition.
- Prepare the job description as an “open” search.
- Adjust your advertising and active recruiting.
- Promote awareness of the impact of bias.
- Provide interviewing tips.
- Increase awareness of evaluation bias in CV and resume review, and in letters of recommendation.
- Spread understanding of evaluation bias to search committee members.
- Weigh judgments that reflect examination of all materials and direct contact with candidates.
- Evaluate of scholarly productivity, research funding, teaching skills, ability to be a conscientious departmental and university member, and fit with the department’s priorities.
- Consider using the ADVANCE Program’s evaluation forms, which can be modified to fit your situation.
- Bring in more than one female and/or minority candidate.
- Treat female and minority faculty applicants as scholars and educators.
- Avoid questions that might be construed as discriminatory or offensive.
- Ask only questions relevant to a faculty position.
- Understand the differences between appropriate and inappropriate questions, found on tools such as this University of Michigan guide.
- Consult the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws and regulations.
- Ensure all candidates meet with a diverse set of people so that they are more likely to meet someone like them.
- Identify someone the candidate can ask confidential questions because dual career issues should not be discussed by the search committee.
- Ensure all candidates know about dual career support mechanisms available at your university. Support for dual careers enhances both recruitment and retention of men and women. Some candidates will easily meet people in the department who share their personal characteristics, such as race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and parent status, but others will not.
What recruitment strategies have helped your faculty recruit a more diverse faculty? Share them in the comments.
For additional information, visit SfN's Increasing Women in Neuroscience (IWiN) course, "Recruiting a Diverse Faculty."
Adapted from the presentation, “Workshop on Faculty Recruitment for Diversity and Excellence,” by Pamela Raymond, PhD.