Departmental culture plays an important role in recruiting, retaining and advancing a talented and diverse faculty membership.

Creating an inclusive environment for faculty is a leadership task that requires investment beyond interviewing and hiring a candidate of color. Equitable faculty hiring and evaluation processes begin long before a job announcement is drafted or a committee is assembled.

There is no recipe or formula for making change, but there are many steps academic departments, committee members and chairs can take to broaden searches, increase equity and inclusion within their disciplines, and contribute to a sense of belonging and flourishing for all within the academy.

If your department is actively searching for a new faculty member, engaging in promotion reviews or just wondering how to do more to advance careers for an increasingly diverse group of faculty, below are some self-study resources to help you learn more and take stock of your practices in these areas.

Your departmental culture is a “constantly evolving system of shared beliefs, values, customs, rituals, practices and artifacts.” It shapes how your faculty act and react; it sets the precedent for the experience of faculty, staff and students, both present and future. It is important for departments to discuss and then articulate the value of inclusion, equity and diversity in a statement posted on their website and/or social media outlets. Otherwise, a departmental culture, where race and identity are not recognized nor easily discussed is a department prone to issues of implicit bias, microaggressions, discrimination and prejudice and could be perceived as inhospitable to Black and minoritized job candidates.

Uncover your Gaps

For many departments, it can be challenging to critically engage with how faculty, staff and students of color and/or those who identify as women experience your departmental culture. While you and many of your faculty may believe that you are an inclusive department who welcome and support women and other minoritized people, unconscious actions may lead some to feel unwelcome or overburdened. These implicit biases can occur in any type of department at any time (see, for example, Farrell & McHugh, 2017; O’Brien et al., 2015; & Saul, 2013).

Understand Implicit Biases

The work to grow an equitable departmental culture is not easy, but it is a necessary first step in creating a student body and a faculty that represents the diversity we wish to see. In order to combat implicit biases, we must first work to understand how our individual biases work. Because these biases are unconscious, they can be quite difficult to bring to light. Project Implicit, a Harvard University project, has created a series of tests which help outline our human biases and how individuals tend to see the world. You may wish to engage with these tests with your faculty before taking the next steps (Project Implicit, select “Social Attitudes”). You can also learn from Dr. Mahzarin Banaji on how the tests came to be.

Additionally, the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Villanova offers summer faculty and staff Inter-Group Relations programs which can help members of Villanova faculty and staff understand more about the experience of people with minoritized identities at Villanova. Similarly, summer can be a valuable time to undertake an “inclusion audit” to learn more about how your department’s environment impacts the students, faculty and staff who enter your space. Last year, the entire University of Missouri system completed DEI audits and made their results public.

Foster an Inclusive Environment

A column from Inside Higher Ed provides 10 steps that department chairs can undertake to foster a more inclusive environment. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has also created a best practices document for faculty mentoring, which can be an effective way to empower and attract individuals with minoritized identities to your department.

By virtue of their professional position, faculty members are afforded a great deal of discretionary power, which can be used to advance full participation of faculty and students in the higher education setting, argues KerryAnn O’Meara. Faculty apply judgement and discretion to a wide range of decisions that impact careers, classrooms, climate, and culture in academic departments. The discretionary power is available to effect equitable practices for faculty hiring, evaluation, and promotion even when institutional policy is slower to change.

For example, departments can consider the ways in which they may be unconsciously supporting what Sapna Cheryan calls “masculine defaults.” These defaults can be as simple as the images on your walls and items that bring meaning to a space. Real or imagined, stereotypes expressed as cues in the environment can contribute significantly to over representation of men in certain professions (this tool can help you explore demographic differences in various industries). Ensuring that physical spaces in your department are not defaulting to stereotypes is an important step to take to build inclusive environments.

Broaden your Networks for Recruitment

Before you execute your search, set your department up for success in hosting a diverse search and using equity-focused practices in your hiring. Consider where you will advertise your position. Human Resources at Villanova can help you post to a number of sites, but departments are also encouraged to seek out additional possibilities. The Human Resources employment team is available to collaborate on identifying or facilitating setting up these advertising channels.

Many departments choose to seek applicants at professional organizations. These networks are exceptionally valuable, but often yield candidates who match identities already present in our institutions. Instead, work on creating a more diverse network in the first place. Begin by inviting a more diverse slate of speakers to campus to provide colloquia and seminars. This creates opportunities for junior faculty, women faculty, and faculty of color to connect with colleagues and share their expertise.

Engage with Diversity-Oriented Professional Groups

Nearly all major professional organizations in the United States have sub-councils and committees (for examples, see AIChE, AGU, AMS, ASEE, NASPA, etc.) intentionally created to support professionals of color, LGBT professionals, and women. Engage with these committees as an ally and listen to their feedback to support your own development. In addition, many disciplines have entire organizations dedicated to supporting minoritized individuals in your profession, such as NSBE, NOBCChE, SHPE, and oSTEM. Sites like JobStars and the National Diversity Council are excellent resources in finding these organizations. These organizations can be great resources in exploring how to build supports into your departments.

Prepare to Post your Position

Many universities, including Columbia University and the University of Michigan have developed extensive handbooks and guidelines to support faculty searches and hiring with the goal of increasing diversity and equity on their campuses. Where you post your position matters. If positions are only shared in the standard publications, you may be missing opportunities to promote your department to faculty of color and other minoritized identities who may not have access to the traditional modes of job searching.

Participate in learning opportunities

Villanova offers Hiring for Villanova’s Future which provides a four-part training in building equity in hiring practices. For more information, visit the Hiring for Villanova’s Future site or contact by email.

In fall 2020, VISIBLE hosted a virtual discussion for Villanova faculty and staff on how to increase the diversity of recruitment pools, learn about practices that have proven successful and generate new ideas for their own departments. Villanova faculty and staff may use their VU login information to access the "What to Do About Hiring During a Hiring Freeze" presentation and video recordings (part 1 and part 2) of this discussion.

In 2021-22, VISIBLE will offer a four-part Equitable Hiring Practicum series each semester. See the events section on VISIBLE’s homepage or contact Adam Smith for details.

Look into Villanova’s handbook

The Faculty Recruitment Guidelines and Procedures document created by the Villanova University Provost’s Office offers some tips and guidance on how to conduct a search which will broaden the pool of candidates and our concepts of excellence. See page six for information on the University’s Statement on Diversity.

Participate in Learning Opportunities

Resources provided in sections above can help you move forward in understanding of barriers that some faculty members may face along their career paths. In particular, check out Project Implicit, a Harvard University initiative. Additionally, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offers Intergroup Relations programs which can help faculty members understand more about the experiences of people with many different identities at Villanova.

Read More About It

Recall that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted faculty scholarship, teaching and service in many ways. VISIBLE offers numerous resources specific to Villanova’s response .

VISIBLE has developed tip sheets for members of faculty evaluation committees and for faculty members who are preparing materials for review.

Villanovans in every area of the University are actively engaged in building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community. We want to know what you are doing and thinking about to:

  • Grow a more equitable and inclusive departmental culture
  • Engage in outreach and recruiting for diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Promote equitable and inclusive hiring or onboarding
  • Mentor to improve equity and inclusion
  • Participate in equitable and inclusive tenure and promotion practices

Please contact us with your ideas. We are always looking to add resources to this page!

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