Classroom diversity has tremendous benefits for student achievement, and higher-ed institutions are turning to diversity initiatives to help recruit and hire diverse candidates.
According to NCES data, 41 percent of all full-time faculty in 2017 were white males; 35 percent were white females; 6 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander males; 5 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander females; and 3 percent each were black males, black females, Hispanic males, and Hispanic females.
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Research also points to the many benefits that come from diversifying a majority-white teacher workforce and incorporating more minority teachers–namely, minority students benefit from seeing themselves represented in classroom leadership, and minority teachers who understand minority students’ cultural backgrounds tend to form more meaningful interpersonal connections with students.
In 2015, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) launched the STRIDE Committee. STRIDE is a team of faculty members supporting their peers in crafting inclusive job advertisements, creating inclusive interview processes and protocols, and providing specialized mentoring and support for diverse faculty.
Part of STRIDE’s mission is to raise awareness about implicit biases and help university leaders recognize the best strategies and practices to recruit and retain a diverse and inclusive group of educators.
The committee uses the framework of critical diversity to guide its practices. Critical diversity is defined as “the equal inclusion of people from varied backgrounds on a parity basis throughout all ranks and division of [an] organization. It especially refers to inclusion of those who are considered to be different from traditional members because of exclusionary practices.”
In addition to the committee and new university policies such as required diversity recruitment plans for open faculty positions, UMBC also uses a tool called Interfolio to compare the diversity of a job applicant pool for a given opening to that job’s national diversity average. Campus leaders first identified Interfolio as a viable tool in the university’s quest to assess its hiring practices.
“We learned that we didn’t have a sense of what our applicant pools really looked like,” says Autumn Reed, Ph.D., UMBC’s Program Coordinator for Faculty Diversity Initiatives. “We didn’t have data. We had search committees coming together but we couldn’t measure their impact.”
While UMBC did have candidates coming in for interviews, Reed says the university had no way to be sure applicants who did come in for interviews were selected from a diverse hiring pool. “Let’s pretend a search’s interview pool wasn’t that diverse–we had no clue where the applicant pool that came from. We had no way to assess and measure that,” she says.
When candidates apply to a UMBC job posting through Interfolio, they fill out a series of voluntary questions at the end of the application. Those questions focus on things such as gender, ethno-racial categorizations, veteran status, and disability.
Once that information is collected, Reed uses that data to gauge the diversity of the candidate pool for an open position. Reed runs a report in Interfolio and compares that data to the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates, an annual census of everyone receiving a research doctorate from an accredited institution. Results of that survey are used to assess the characteristics of the doctoral population and trends in doctoral education and degrees.
“This gives us an idea of what our candidate pool really looks like,” Reed says. “We’re not looking for it to match up entirely, but it can help us spot problems. If, for instance, our candidate pool is disproportionately white males, but the NSF survey tells us half of that specific pool is women, it gives us something to look at. If things are out of alignment, we can go back to our search committee and ask if they checked for implicit bias and have a conversation about practices.”