Research to Support Faculty Searches

Recent research highlights findings related to the influence of different factors on the faculty search process.

Innovative Search Practices

The case for cluster hiring to diversity your faculty

Case study description of the use of cluster hiring at Emory University resulting in significant increase in hiring of faculty from underrepresented groups (Freeman, 2019). 

Can anonymous faculty searches boost diversity? The chair of a department experimenting with this approach shares their experience

Interview in Science with professor from Yale University’s molecular biophysics and biochemistry department regarding their experiment with reviewing anonymous applications for their faculty search (Langin, 2021).

A Modest(y) Proposal: Challenging the Overrepresentation of Elite Institutions

This article describes the role that institution status plays in hiring and publication, and proposes strategies for reducing the influence (Swidler, 2019).

Job Advertisements

Nudging Toward Diversity: Applying Behavioral Design to Faculty Hiring

This article makes recommendations for historical, quasi-experimental, and randomized studies to test hiring interventions with larger databases and more controlled conditions than have previously been used, with the goal of establishing evidence-based practices that contribute to a more inclusive hiring process and a more diverse faculty (O’Meara, Culpepper, and Templeton, 2020).

Evidence that gendered wording in job advertisements exists and sustains gender inequality

Employing both archival and experimental analyses, the present research demonstrates that gendered wording commonly employed in job recruitment materials can maintain gender inequality in traditionally male-dominated occupations. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated the existence of subtle but systematic wording differences within a randomly sampled set of job advertisements. Results indicated that job advertisements for male-dominated areas employed greater masculine wording (i.e., words associated with male stereotypes, such as leader, competitive, dominant) than advertisements within female-dominated areas (Gaucher, Friesen, and Kay, 2011).

Reference Letters

Raising doubt in letters of recommendation for academia: Gender differences and their impact

Both male and female recommenders use more doubt raisers in letters of recommendations for women compared to men and the presence of certain types of doubt raisers in letters of recommendation results in negative outcomes for both genders. Since doubt raisers are more frequent in letters for women than men, women are at a disadvantage relative to men in their applications for academic positions (Madera et al., 2018).

Differences in words used to describe racial and gender groups in Medical Student Performance Evaluations

A study of over 6,000 medical student performance evaluations found significant differences based on race and gender. White applicants were more likely to be described using “standout” or “ability” keywords while Black applicants were more likely to be described as “competent”. Female applicants were more frequently described as “caring”, “compassionate”, and “empathic” or “empathetic” (Ross et al., 2017).

Statements on Contributions to DEIB

Diversity Statements

Critics allege that universities are engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, violating their faculty’s academic freedom, and imposing political litmus tests akin to the loyalty oaths struck down during the Cold War era. Yet evaluating these as legal claims requires grappling with complicated, often unsettled doctrine regarding the First Amendment and higher education — something that, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been done on the comment threads, opinion pages, and faculty committees where this discussion has largely played out until now. This Article does that work, fleshing out the criticisms and developing a framework to address them and guide universities on how they can require and evaluate diversity statements — should they want to — without violating either the Constitution or the academic freedom on which their mission depends (Soucek, 2022)

Promises and pitfalls of diversity statements: Proceed with caution

As part of their efforts to increase the diversity of their workforce and student body, medical schools, academic medical centers, and individual departments are increasingly crafting public statements about their value for and commitment to diversity. For these statements to effectively enhance diversity, however, care must be taken, as research shows that some diversity-related messages can backfire. To avoid the pitfalls and realize the promise of diversity statements, this article presents recommendations based on experimental studies that investigate the impact of diversity messages (Carnes, Fine, and Sheridan, 2019).

Evaluation Processes

When two bodies are (not) a problem: Gender and relationship status discrimination in academic hiring

Through a qualitative case study of junior faculty search committees at a large R1 university, the study shows that committees actively considered women’s—but not men’s—relationship status when selecting hires. Drawing from gendered scripts of career and family that present men’s careers as taking precedence over women’s, committee members assumed that heterosexual women whose partners held academic or high-status jobs were not “movable,” and excluded such women from offers when there were viable male or single female alternatives. Conversely, committees infrequently discussed male applicants’ relationship status and saw all female partners as movable (Rivera, 2017).

"We are all for diversity but..." How faculty hiring committees reproduce whiteness and practical suggestions for how they can change 

Despite stated commitments to diversity, predominantly White academic institutions still have not increased racial diversity among their faculty. In this article Robin DiAngelo and Özlem Sensoy focus on one entry point for doing so—the faculty hiring process. They analyze a typical faculty hiring scenario and identify the most common practices that block the hiring of diverse faculty and protect Whiteness and offer constructive alternative practices to guide hiring committees in their work to realize the institution’s commitment to diversity (Sensoy and DiAngelo, 2017).

If there’s only one woman in your candidate pool, there’s statistically no chance she’ll be hired

A study of university hiring decisions with a sample of 598 job finalists found that when there were two female finalists women had a significantly higher chance of being hired. When there is only one woman among the finalists she has statistically a zero chance of being selected, compared to about 50% with a finalist pool of two women and two men. There was also a significant effect for race. The odds of hiring a minority were 193.72 times greater if there were at least two minority candidates in the finalist pool (Johnson, Hekman, and Chan, 2016).

The facade of fit in faculty search processes

This study investigates how faculty search committee members evaluate and collectively select prospective early-career faculty. Results indicate that fit, as a system of assumptions, practices, and tactics designed to evaluate and select candidates based on organizational needs, was minimal in faculty searches. Instead, faculty relied heavily on idiosyncratic preferences to evaluate research, teaching, and service credentials, which also contained criterion that directly and indirectly averted diversity (White-Lewis, 2020).

Evaluation Rubrics

Can Rubrics Combat Gender Bias in Faculty Hiring?

An in-depth case study of rubric usage in faculty hiring in an academic engineering department in a very research-active university found that the rate of hiring women increased after the department deployed rubrics and used them to guide holistic discussions. Yet they also found evidence of substantial gender bias persisting in some rubric scoring categories and evaluators’ written comments. The authors recommend a strategic and sociologically astute use of rubrics as a department self-study tool within the context of a holistic evaluation of semifinalist candidates. (Blair-Loy, Mayorova, Cosman, Fraley, 2022).

Do Rubrics Live up to Their Promise? Examining How Rubrics Mitigate Bias in Faculty Hiring

This study used a multiple case study methodology to explore how five faculty search committees used rubrics in candidate evaluation, and the extent to which using a rubric seemed to perpetuate or mitigate bias in committee decision-making. Results showed that the use of rubrics can improve searches by clarifying criteria, encouraging criteria use in evaluation, calibrating the application of criteria to evidence, and in some cases, bringing diversity, equity, and inclusion work (DEI) into consideration. However, search committees also created and implemented rubrics in ways that seem to perpetuate bias, undermine effectiveness, and potentially contribute to the hiring of fewer minoritized candidates (Culpepper, White-Lewis, O'Meara, Templeton, and Anderson, 2023).

Candidate Visits and Job Talks

Gender in engineering departments: Are there gender differences in interruptions of academic job talks?

An analysis of video recordings of 119 job talks across five engineering departments at two R1 universities revealed that women receive more follow-up questions and more total questions. Moreover, a higher proportion of women’s talk time is taken up by the audience asking questions. Further, the number of questions is correlated with the job candidate’s statements and actions that reveal he or she is rushing to present their slides and complete the talk. We argue that women candidates face more interruptions and often have less time to bring their talk to a compelling conclusion, which is connected to the phenomenon of “stricter standards” of competence demanded by evaluators of short-listed women applying for a masculine-typed job (Blair-Loy et al., 2017).

Unintentional Impacts of Bias

Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines

The extent to which practitioners of a discipline believe that success depends on sheer brilliance is a strong predictor of lower representation of women and African Americans in that discipline. The data suggest that academics who wish to diversify their fields might want to downplay talk of innate intellectual giftedness and instead highlight the importance of sustained effort for top‐level success in their field (Leslie, Cimpian, Meyer, and Freeland, 2015). 

The Diversity–Innovation Paradox in Science

By analyzing data from nearly all US PhD recipients and their dissertations across three decades, this paper finds demographically underrepresented students innovate at higher rates than majority students, but their novel contributions are discounted and less likely to earn them academic positions (Hofstra, Kulkarni, Munoz-Najar Galvez, He, Jurafsky, and McFarland, 2020).

How gender and race stereotypes impact the advancement of scholars in STEM: Professors’ biased evaluations of physics and biology post-doctoral candidates

In a study of 251 physics and biology faculty from eight research universities, using review of candidate CVs (identical CVs with different apparent genders and races), researchers found that faculty in physics exhibited a gender bias favoring the male candidates as more competent and more hirable than the otherwise identical female candidates. Further, physics faculty rated Asian and White candidates as more competent and hirable than Black and Latinx candidates, while those in biology rated Asian candidates as more competent and hirable than Black candidates, and as more hireable than Latinx candidates. An interaction between candidate gender and race emerged for those in physics, whereby Black women and Latinx women and men candidates were rated the lowest in hireability compared to all others. Women were rated more likeable than men candidates across departments (Eaton, Saunders, Jacobson, and West, 2019).

"Diversity Training"

Why diversity programs fail

Harvard Business Review article on common practices in diversity programs that lead to unsuccessful outcomes (Dobbin and Kalev, 2016).

Why doesn’t diversity training work?

Additional analyses specifically regarding diversity training. The authors find that short-term educational interventions in general do not change people’s behavior. Second, in some cases antibias training activates stereotypes. Third, diversity training can also inspire unrealistic confidence in anti-discrimination programs, making employees complacent about their own biases. Fourth, research indicates that training leaves whites feeling left out. And fifth, people react negatively to efforts to control them. The article suggests alternatives to diversity training that can be more effective (Dobbin and Kalev, 2018).