It’s recruiting and hiring season, and we know that many departments have struggled with the question of how to recruit underrepresented researchers to their departments. This is a difficult, nuanced, and controversial task. Juan Carlos Suárez stated on Twitter that
It is important to be thoughtful as to why diversity and inclusion in economics is important. And it is important to make a clear and defined plan as to how to address this need in your department. Here, we present a set of tips and tools for anyone to use while thinking about how to hire historically underrepresented researchers.
Calling your network: Professors may be particularly likely to recommend students that remind them of themselves at a young age, or their successful peers. That is problematic in a largely white, male profession. When making calls to other departments, be sure to include the question ''Who are your top female and minority candidates?'' Ask members of your network to particularly encourage qualified underrepresented candidates to apply.
Do your own search: We also recommend conducting your own broad search for potential applicants in addition to reviewing those recommended by faculty at other institutions. At Berkeley, WEB conducts an extensive search of job market websites for highly qualified candidates whose research is a good fit for the position. We pass the list of names on to the hiring departments, who often reach out and encourage these candidates to apply.
Discussion of candidates
Set evaluation criteria ahead of time: There is a great piece on this by David Wilcox, Director of the Division of Research and Statistics at the Fed, in the latest CSWEP newsletter. At the Fed,
Wilcox also stresses not including “fit” or potential for friendship in the criteria, and instead focusing on those who bring something that is missing from the group. There is a sample rubric available here from the University of Texas.
Keep common biases in mind when reading letters: Hiring committees are often looking for “geniuses,” and academics are less likely to view women or African-Americans as geniuses (Leslie et al. 2015). Take this and other forms of bias into consideration when reading letters of recommendation. The University of Arizona Commission on the Status of Women lists common differences in the way we describe men and women in letters of recommendation. Men tend to be praised with standout words such as “excellent” or “unparalleled,” whereas women tend to be described by words such as “hardworking” or “meticulous.” (Trix & Psenka, 2003). Trix & Psenka also found that letters for female applicants were shorter, had fewer mentions of research and scientific terminology, and less use of possessive phrases such as “her skills and abilities.” A letter gender bias calculator is available online if you would like to score your own letters or the letters you receive.
Set evaluation criteria ahead of time: Again, setting criteria ahead of time is helpful for combating bias. This website has some useful tips: before the first interview, create an interview rubric that will be used for all candidates. Have a single pool of questions, and choose which questions to ask which candidates before the first interview.
Confidence ≠ competence: When evaluating candidates, keep in mind that confidence and competence are not the same thing. Candidate self-perception and self-presentation can depend on a number of factors, including the potential for people do react badly to displays of confidence. One study found that, when interviewers perceived female candidates as ambitious and self-reliant, (1) the interviewers judged the female candidate to also have low social skills, and (2) interviewers shifted hiring criteria to more strongly emphasize social skills (Phelan et al. 2008).
Interview location: Be sensitive to the fact that hotel rooms can be an uncomfortable interview location, particularly with a female candidate and an all-male panel. For this reason, and many others, try to have a gender balance on the interview committee.
Use EJM to avoid EJMR: Post the status of your open position on econjobmarket.org so that candidates do not have to visit EJMR to find out information about the progress of the application cycle.
The ''two in the pool'' effect: One study found that the odds of hiring a woman for a faculty position were 79 times greater if there were at least two women, rather than only one woman, in the finalist pool. The odds of hiring a minority were 194 times greater if there were at least two people of color in the finalist pool. This may be because having only one woman or minority in the group highlights how that candidate deviates from the norm (Johnson et al. 2016). Ensure that there are at least two women and two people of color in the group chosen for flyouts.
Interpreting candidate presentation style: Again, candidate self-presentation style will vary by background and is not always a good indicator of ability. Audiences at economics job talks are notoriously aggressive, but there is evidence that white women and African-American men are penalized for responding aggressively, while white men are not (Brescoll & Uhlmann 2008; Livingston et al. 2012). Remind faculty to keep this in mind and focus on the content rather than tone of candidate responses.
Set evaluation criteria ahead of time: Have all faculty members who will be involved in the hiring conversation write down a rubric on what they are looking for before the first job talk, with as much detail as possible. Ask them to stick to this rubric.
Being alone in the department as a woman or person of color can be alienating. During the visit, demonstrate that your department has women and people of color who are thriving (if this is the case). Highlight the aspects of your school and department that may be particularly appealing to women or people of color, such as paid parental leave or grant opportunities for minority researchers. If your female or minority faculty are not currently taking a disproportionate number of administrative tasks (Guarino & Borden 2017), arrange for a meeting with a female faculty member during the visit. Or, if your department is not diverse, know that you may have to invest extra resources into hiring diverse candidates now in order to attract a broader talent pool in the future.
Continued learning and improvement
Recruiting a diverse faculty will require work over many years, and we suggest you continue learning throughout the process. In particular, commit to publishing statistics on diversity for all steps of the process, to identify where women and people of color are dropped. Solicit feedback from all candidates who turn down offers. The goal is to learn about all stages of the recruitment process: qualified candidates who don’t apply, who turn down an interview, who decline a flyout, and who reject an offer.
Author: Deirdre Sutula