Research to Support Faculty Searches, Climate, and Retention

Recent research highlights findings related to the influence of different factors on the faculty search process, as well as diversity, climate, and retention more broadly.


"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).

Achieving Equity and Diversity in Faculty Recruitment

UCOP/UC Davis conference report from the NSF-Funded Evaluating Equity in Faculty recruitment project.

Inviting everyone in

Article in Scientific American that addresses misconceptions in increasing diversity and presents research on potentially successful methods to foster an inclusive academic community (Plaut, 2014).

Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups

Psychologists find a "collective intelligence factor" in group performance correlated with how well groups work together, including social sensitivity of group members and equal distribution of conversational turn-taking (Woolley et al., 2010).

When performance trumps gender bias: joint vs. separate evaluation

Study finds that evaluators are more likely to make reasonable evaluatuations of a person when they are evaluating as part of a group, rather than individually. (Bohnet, van Geen, & Bazerman,  2016).

How diversity makes us smarter

Research shows the positive influences of diversity, including provoking thought and innovation (Phillips, 2014).

Does female representation in top management improve firm performance? A panel data investigation

Female representation in top management leads to an increase of $42 million in firm value (Deszo and Ross, 2012).

Collaborating with people like me: Ethnic co-authorship within the US

The authors examined the ethnic identity of authors of over 2.5 million scientific papers in the U.S. over an approximate 20-year period. They found that persons of similar ethnicity co-author together more frequently than predicted by their proportion among authors. They also found that greater homophily was associated with publication in lower impact journals, with fewer citations. Papers with authors in more locations and with longer reference lists get published in higher impact journals and receive more citations than others (Freeman and Huang, 2014).

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. 

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).

Cluster hiring

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). 

UC Berkeley faculty diversity initiatives

Research reports from two Advancing Faculty Diversity projects funded by the UC Office of the President, one in the College of Engineering and one in the Life Sciences.

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). 

Job advertisements

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

Employing both archival and experimental analyses, the research demonstrates that gendered wording commonly employed in job recruitment materials can maintain gender inequality in traditionally male-dominated occupations. Results indicated that job advertisements for male-dominated areas employed greater masculine wording. When job advertisements were constructed to include more masculine than feminine wording, participants perceived more men within these occupations, and importantly, women found these jobs less appealing. Results confirmed that perceptions of belongingness (but not perceived skills) mediated the effect of gendered wording on job appeal (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).

Exploring the color of glass: Letters of recommendation for female and male medical faculty

A study of over 300 recommendation letters for medical faculty at a large American medical school in the 1990s found that letters for female applicants differed systematically from those for males. Letters written for women were shorter, provided “minimal assurance” rather than solid recommendation, raised more doubts, and portrayed women as students and teachers while portraying men as researchers and professionals. All letters studied were written for successful candidates only (Trix and Psenka, 2003).

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).

Gender bias calculator

Online tool that allows you to paste in a letter of recommendation and learn what proportion of the words are more feminine or masculine.

 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).

Influence of relationship status

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).

Institution status

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).

Systemic inequality and hierarchy in faculty hiring networks

Analysis of placement data on approximately 19,000 regular faculty in three disciplines found that faculty hiring follows a common and steeply hierarchical structure that reflects profound social inequality. Doctoral prestige alone better predicts ultimate placement than a U.S. News & World Report rank, women generally place worse than men, and increased institutional prestige leads to increased faculty production, better faculty placement, and a more influential position within the discipline (Clauset, Arbesman, and Larremore, 2015).

Bias in evaluations

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, KulkarniMunoz-Najar GalvezHeJurafsky, and McFarland, 2020).

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).

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).

What happens before? A field experiment exploring how pay and representation differentially shape bias on the pathway into organizations

Professors at top Universities were contacted by a fictional prospective graduate student. Faculty ignored requests from women and minorities at a significantly higher rate than requests from Caucasian males, particularly in higher-paying disciplines and private institutions (Milkman, Akinola, & Chugh, 2014).

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. 

Student evaluations of teaching are not only unreliable, they are significantly biased against female instructors
A series of studies across countries and disciplines in higher education confirm that student evaluations of teaching (SET) are significantly correlated with instructor gender, with students regularly rating female instructors lower than male peers. Anne Boring, Kellie Ottoboni and Philip B. Stark argue the findings warrant serious attention in light of increasing pressure on universities to measure teaching effectiveness. Given the unreliability of the metric and the harmful impact these evaluations can have, universities should think carefully on the role of such evaluations in decision-making.

Invisible burden of DEIB work on underrepresented faculty

Underrepresented faculty play a disproportionate role in advancing diversity and inclusion

Faculty with underrepresented identities disproportionately engage in diversity and inclusion activities, yet such engagement was not considered important for tenure. Faculty perceived time and funding as major limitations, which suggests that institutions should reallocate resources and reconsider how faculty are evaluated to promote shared responsibility in advancing diversity and inclusion (Jimenez et al., 2019).

 Experiences of faculty of color in academia

Scrutinized but not recognized:(In)visibility and hypervisibility experiences of faculty of color

In a qualitative study of faculty of color (FOC), researchers found that FOC experienced hypervisibility when they were treated as Tokens and used to represent diversity within the institution, and they felt invisible when they experienced Social and Professional Exclusion and Epistemic Exclusion (i.e., lack of recognition for their scholarship and achievements) from colleagues. FOC responded to tokenism and exclusion using three (in)visibility strategies: Strategic Invisibility (i.e., disengaging with colleagues while remaining engaged with their scholarly activities) to remove themselves from negative environments; Working Harder to prove themselves, counter exclusion, and create positive visibility; and Disengagement (i.e., removed effort from work) (Settles and Buchanan, 2018).

A Phenomenological Exploration of How Campus Environments Shape the Success of Racially Minoritized Faculty at Predominantly White Institutions

The author adapts the Culturally Engaging Campus Environment (CECE) model, used primarily in the student development arena, to understand the experiences of racially minoritized faculty working at predominantly white institutions. She finds 8 key themes that contribute to faculty success, which she organizes into two distinct groups (Wright-Mair, 2017).


(Re)Defining Departure: Exploring Black Professors’ Experiences with and Responses to Racism and Racial Climate

The authors conduct a qualitative study of 28 black professors working at two public research universities with the goal of understanding black faculty members’ responses to campus climates and racism, outside of intention to leave. They draw from various organizational theories that suggest that in addition to departure, employees react to challenging institutional climates through absenteeism, psychological withdrawal, lack of involvement, bargaining for different conditions, and loyalty (waiting for change). They find that the faculty members in their study respond to negative campus environments by building external networks (departmental departure), attempting to disprove stereotypes (self-definition), and engaging in service work. The authors classify these responses as psychological departure and critical agency by faculty members (Griffin et al., 2011).

Grassroots Efforts To Quantify and Improve the Academic Climate of an R1 STEM Department: Using Evidence-Based Discussions To
Foster Community

Women and some racial and ethnic groups remain underrepresented in chemistry departments across the United States, and generally, efforts to improve representation have resulted in minimal or no improvements in the last 10 years. Here, we present the outcomes of a graduate-student-led initiative that sought to assess the issues affecting inclusivity, diversity, and wellness within the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.  (Stachl et al., 2019)