Searching for excellence and diversity

search diversityLast month I attended an excellent workshop focused on searching for excellence and diversity. It was presented by Eve Fine and Jennifer Sheridan from WISELI: Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. What struck me most was the numerous research studies that they shared demonstrating unconscious bias in the search and hire process. Gender and race/ethnicity bias cropped up over and over in studies focusing on reviewing resumes and candidate interviews. I found the research findings to be significant and alarming. It demonstrated that each of us are prone to bias whether we are aware of it or not.

So, given the fact that unconscious bias exists in the search process, what can we do to make sure that we are not unconsciously eliminating good candidates based upon their gender or race/ethnicity? One strategy that Drs. Fine and Sheridan suggested was to make search committee members aware that unconscious bias exists and give them time to discuss it prior to starting the search process. They have also created a guidebook for search committees, which provides excellent resources and templates.

I’d recommend purchasing the guide, but if you are pressed for time, here are their top 10 tips:

1. Build a diverse committee and ensure all members understand the committee’s role

2. Build rapport among committee members and create an environment of collegiality, respect, dedication, and open-mindedness

3. Establish expectations and ground rules for attendance, active involvement, decision-making, confidentiality, treatment of candidates, etc.

4. Air views about diversity, discuss ideas about excellence, and develop a shared understanding of what diversity and excellence mean for a particular search

5. Recruit a diverse applicant pool by searching broadly and inclusively

6. Recruit diligently by making personal contact with potential applicants, targeting publications to underrepresented groups and communicating with organizations and people who can refer you to potential applicants

7. Learn about research on unconscious or implicit biases and assumptions and their influence on evaluation of applicants

8. Question the objectivity of your own judgments and learn about other ways to mitigate bias

9. Ensure that every candidate interviewed-whether hired or not-is respected and treated well

10. Maintain communication with all final candidates until an offer is accepted

What has worked for you in searching for both excellence and diversity?

Anita Rios



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