Recruit and retain a diverse faculty

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A number of studies have pointed to non-diverse economics department faculty as a deterrent for women and racial minorities to pursue further studies in economics.

Research (Lockwood, 2006) shows that exposure to a female role model improves a woman’s feelings of self-efficacy and ratings of potential future career success more than exposure to a male role model. She also found that women cited other women as more often influential in their career paths than men. These findings suggest the importance of matching in career role models.

In research specific to economics, studies have shown the importance of instructor gender in Introductory economics courses. At the graduate level, economists David Neumark and Rosella Gardecki (1996) found that having more female faculty members resulted in higher completion rates for female economics graduate students. Because there are fewer women and racial minorities in economics, the lack of role models may be a potential cause for further stereotype threat and disidentification from the field.

Same-gender and same-race role models may be effective in buffering against Stereotype threat. Psychologists Marx and Roman found that the presence of a highly competent female role model in mathematics protected female students from the negative effects of stereotype threat. In the first study, participants took a math test and self-esteem survey in the presence of either a male or female researcher who identified himself or herself as a math major. Marx and Roman found that female participants performed better and had higher state-self esteem in the female researcher condition. Men’s performance and self-esteem levels were equivalent across conditions. In follow up studies, participants read biographical descriptions of female students who were either math majors (math competent) or English majors who had taken a few math courses (math incompetent) as a sample essay and then completed a math test, a state self-esteem survey, and a self-appraisal of math competence. Descriptions of competent female math role models increased performance, state self-esteem, and self-appraisal of competence levels. Based on these findings, it is clear that competent same-gender role models in the field of economics would act as a buffer to stereotype threat.

The absence of women and racial minorities from economics department faculty presents a message that students belonging to underrepresented groups are not welcome and may not be able to break into the field. The presence of a diverse faculty creates a more comfortable environment for underrepresented students, and typically results in increased participation rates by these students. A diverse faculty is not only important in terms of role modeling for a diverse student body, but also for presenting a different perspective in the economics classroom.

Resources for recruiting diverse faculty

The AEA's CSMGEP collects and disseminates information on job opportunities and on minority PhD candidates.

There are multiple databases and online resources available to help departments recruit diverse job candidates. North Carolina State University's website for ADVANCE, a program devoted to increasing faculty diversity, lists resources for finding qualified candidates of diverse backgrounds. Some resources suggested by them include:

  • Ford Foundation Fellows Directory: "This directory contains information on Ford Foundation Postdoctoral fellowship recipients awarded since 1980 and Ford Foundation Predoctoral and Dissertation fellowship recipients awarded since 1986. The directory was created to serve as a resource for university officials seeking to diversify their faculty, minority students looking for mentors and role models, and scholars interested in establishing collaborative projects."
  • SACNAS Member Directory: "SACNAS is a society of scientists dedicated to fostering the success of Hispanic/Chicano and Native American scientists—from college students to professionals—to attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in academia."
  • Doctoral Scholar Directory: "The database offers faculty and research recruiters an economical way to reach a diverse group of people. It includes access to: vitae, profiles, research and scholarship areas, as well as other information for all doctoral scholars and Ph.D. recipients who have attended the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, the largest gathering of minority Ph.D.s and Ph.D. candidates in the nation."

Recommendations for further reading

  • Read How to Diversify the Faculty, By Daryl G. Smith. "Get beyond the myths and adopt new hiring practices if you want to add significant numbers of minority group members to the faculty"
  • Read "Interrupting the Usual: Successful Strategies for Hiring Diverse Faculty," by Daryl G. Smith, Caroline S. Turner, Nana Osei-Kofi, and Sandra Richards, The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 75, No. 2 (March/April 2004)