Mitigating bias in Hiring and Admissions
We asked a dozen women and minority graduate students and faculty at UC Berkeley (ARE, Econ, and Haas) about their experiences and suggestions for wannabe allies. Here, we've compiled their suggestions for improving the hiring and admissions process for women and underrepresented minorities.
Please note that these resources do not necessarily reflect the views of WEB. The intention is to hold an inclusive space for ongoing discourse. We thank the authors for sharing suggestions gathered from their interactions with students and faculty who have had identity-specific experiences in academia that obstruct their productivity. We welcome any feedback, additional contributions, comments, or questions on these issues. Please feel free to e-mail the authors or WEB directly.
- We would do much better in the hiring process, one interviewee proposes, by placing a real emphasis on women and minority candidates, but allowing the subfield to be less tightly constrained.
- Letters of recommendation exhibit significant gender bias. We should consider these biases when reading.
- Of course, there’s a tradeoff here. On one hand, we’d like to blind our application process to minimize unconscious bias in the review committee. On the other hand, it’s appealing to leave the applications unblinded with the goal of evaluating the letters for bias.
- “We are not very good at interviewing in an unbiased way—we tend to like people that look like ourselves 20 years ago.” This makes it likely that a field dominated by white males today will remain dominated by white males tomorrow. Be aware of the trap of hiring based on “fit”, rather than more objective criteria.
- It’s crucial to set specific evaluation criteria ahead of time. See, for example, this article in the latest CSWEP newsletter on hiring at the Federal Reserve Board.
- When a woman or minority candidate is admitted or hired, our interviewees mentioned that their colleagues perceive them as lower quality since they are a minority.
- Our interviewees point out that for every quality minority applicant or woman to get a position, there are 10+ defensive white men who think they were excluded based only on their race or sex.
- This creates a culture of aggression toward women and people of color.
- Don’t assume women and people of color are “diversity hires” or “diversity admits”. They’ve had to climb a taller hill to get here, and departments have overwhelming incentives to hire only the highest quality applicants.
- Be conscious of gendered language in recommendation letters you read and don’t use gendered language in letters you write. For tips, see here, here, and here. For an instant bias calculator, see here.
- Interview potential students and faculty in comfortable, professional settings. Avoid interviewing students at the annual meeting one-on-one in a private hotel room. This isn’t a comfortable position for anyone involved, especially women candidates.
- Acknowledge gender/minority bias in admissions, hiring, and tenure committees. Learn about the conscious and unconscious bias against women and people of color.
- Call out these biases when you notice them, particularly in interviews and admissions settings—do you find yourself assuming that a woman/minority colleague is lower quality or hear others voicing those opinions?
- Push back against “supply side” arguments in hiring and admissions decisions.
- Throwing up your hands and saying that you can't do anything at your particular stage in the pipeline is what perpetuates the status quo. At every single step there are measures we can take to work for equality.
- Acknowledge that women may get less credit for research than men. Educate yourself about this bias and work to not let it affect your decisions.