Instilling Equity and Inclusion in Departmental Practices

Instilling Equity and Inclusion in Departmental Practices

Guiding faculty recruitment and retention

Despite decades of centrally-led and externally-funded initiatives designed to increase racial, ethnic, and gender diversity among college and university faculty members, most campuses have made little to no progress. Pressure from students and shifting demographics are driving a new urgency among academic leaders to prioritize both greater numerical representation of underrepresented groups among faculty and a more inclusive environment for faculty, students, and staff. Administrators can no longer simply point to a long-codified written commitment to diversity on campus.

The decisions, processes, and preferences that truly impact diversity and inclusion occur at the departmental level—chairs, program heads, and faculty leaders must identify and remedy sources of bias within traditional recruitment, hiring, onboarding, and promotion practices.

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This resource is part of the Design Better Workflows with Five Process Improvement Steps Roadmap. Access the Roadmap for stepwise guidance with additional tools and research.

It is imperative that institutions analyze unit and department-level trends around hiring and advancement and agree on responsibilities centered on diversity and inclusion processes by role.

In addition, chairs, program heads, and faculty leaders should use the included diagnostics to evaluate existing practices and identify opportunities to improve recruitment and retention practices.

Upstream recruitment

“Aggressive recruiting doesn’t get you as far as you need. You can’t just send out ads, you have to develop relationships with the people who are trusted most by the people you’re trying to attract.”

Director, Diversity Recruiting Program
Large Research University

Because of the time and resource limitations on the typical faculty recruitment process, recruitment and networking should not begin only upon the allocation of a line. Faculty can and should take advantage of year-round activities like conference attendance and on-campus programs for graduate students to develop their network of possible candidates so that a wide candidate pool is available upon the start of a search.

Faculty face many competing demands even before considering their responsibilities to recruit prospective colleagues. The decentralized, highly specialized nature of academic hiring also means that they do not benefit from the dedicated recruitment staff that organizations in the private sector leverage to diversify their hiring pools. One method to significantly ease the recruitment period is to prepare for line allocation with “upstream recruitment,” or pipeline development and networking that occur before a position is even opened.

Search committee preparation

Without proper training and processes in place, search committees, even those with the best intentions, can unintentionally perpetuate underrepresentation. Successful institutions train faculty to use search and evaluation methods that limit bias and proactive recruiting and advertising practices through faculty-led seminars.

Search committees are critical to building a sustainable culture of inclusion, a diverse faculty, and the pursuit of academic excellence. We found that most universities have no formal mechanisms to train committee members to conduct searches, let alone give members the tools to reduce bias and expand applicant pools. This often means that search committees, even with the best intentions, are unintentionally perpetuating underrepresentation. Successful institutions train faculty to use search and evaluation methods that limit bias and proactive recruiting and advertising practices through faculty-led seminars.

Job ad composition

Job ads, when written strategically, can be an opportunity to communicate departmental need, highlight the strengths of the university, and capture the widest possible pool of applicants.

Most search committees realize that the job ad is an important opportunity to communicate departmental need, highlight the strengths of the university, and capture the widest possible pool of applicants. However, most job ads fail to leverage these opportunities by using overly specific disciplinary requirements and relying on a templatized equal opportunity statement. Use the strategies below to make job ads more inclusive.

Pre-tenure track appointments

100%

Increase in applications after personalized outreach by Assistant Provost at Virginia Tech

Postdoctoral programs are often a missed opportunity for departments to recruit exceptional URG scholars. While not every postdoc program is designed to recruit future faculty, particularly in the natural sciences, there many ways to design programs to be more likely to identify and develop scholars who will be a good fit for the institution.

Postdoctoral programs are often a missed opportunity for departments to recruit exceptional URG scholars. The search and hiring process rarely involves faculty or rigorous screening, making faculty skeptical about the qualifications of fellows for tenure-track jobs. Further, most postdocs are siloed away from departmental culture and not viewed as colleagues. While not every postdoc program is designed to recruit future faculty, particularly in the natural sciences, there are many ways to design programs to be more likely to identify and develop scholars who will be a good fit for the institution.

Applicant evaluation

In academic recruiting, the evaluation of prospective faculty candidates is likely the area in which there is the most opportunity for implicit bias to make an impact on faculty decisions. Although some elements of hiring are inherently subjective, there are tactics to increase the equity of application evaluation and interview experiences.

In academic recruiting, the evaluation of prospective faculty candidates is likely the area in which there is the most opportunity for implicit bias to make an impact on faculty decisions. Some elements of hiring are inherently subjective, but there are methods to increase the equity of application evaluation and interview experiences, tactics to increase the diversity of candidates interviewed on campus, and best practices to ensure that equitable processes are implemented in all decentralized search committees.

Professional advancement and development

Retention across demographic groups will depend on making sure faculty of varying tenure ranks have equal access to a variety of professional development opportunities, including traditional mentoring, interactive workshops, targeted grants, and skill-based trainings.

Knowing where to focus limited resources can be challenging, but successful universities use a combined assessment of turnover and promotion rates to inform Making sure that faculty across the tenure ranks have access to a variety of professional development opportunities, including traditional mentoring, interactive workshops, targeted grants, and skill-based trainings, can be vital for retention and develop programs that will allow faculty to explicitly develop their portfolio for advancement and build community.

Dean-level strategic hiring initiatives

Although the majority of hiring and recruitment improvements will be focused on departmental practices, many promising strategies require interdepartmental coordination and resources. These dean-level programs, due to their wider purview, can also often have more significant impact in shorter periods of time.

Case Study Highlight

Cross-departmental searches and those with an open specialization attract a wider pool of applicants. Beyond expanding the pool numerically, these searches also tend to bring in more scholars with innovative and interdisciplinary approaches who may not have applied to a job advertisement. Taken together, this approach is more likely to attract more URG candidates.

Although the majority of hiring and recruitment improvements are embedded in departmental practices, many promising strategies require interdepartmental coordination and resources. These dean-level programs, due to their wider purview, to increasing URG representation in both the faculty and student bodies

Diagnostics for chairs and deans

These diagnostics can help chairs and deans evaluate their current practice and identify opportunities to increase the equity and inclusion of their recruitment and retention processes.

There are different objectives to each of the steps below including identifying and prioritizing existing practices to improve on, discussing potential paths forward, and how potential practices align with the ability to execute on campus.

Workshop Roadmap

Diagnosing and assessing current departmental practice

Individual assessment: Evaluate how advanced your current approaches are by using the diagnostic and the prompt worksheets below

Collaborating to share innovative and effective practices

Small group activity: Compare and contrast areas of strengths, weakness, and opportunities with those at your table

Planning implementation and identifying
next steps

Large group discussion: Bringing the workshop and takeaways back to your institution

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