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New study says critical choice leads to greater diversity in hiring

Before a candidate is hired, those in power make fundamental but important decisions about how a job search will be conducted – decisions that can either help attract candidates from under-represented backgrounds or discourage them. .

One of those critical choices is who gets appointed to lead a search committee to fill a vacant position. A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that if a woman and / or person of color leads such a committee, it can have a huge positive impact on the diversity of applicants.

Candidates notice who is doing and leading the hiring.

Researchers at the University of Houston, Louisiana State University Shreveport, and the University of Sheffield analyzed data from 13,750 applications for 156 faculty positions available from 2015 to 2018 at a major US research university.

They found that when a woman led a recruiting committee, 23% more women applied for the job than when the committee chair was a man.

Applicants of color are especially more likely to apply when other people of color with power are actively recruiting them. The data showed that applications from applicants from under-represented backgrounds – which researchers defined as including Black, Latin, Pacific Islander, Alaskan, and Native American applicants – increased 118% when the research chair was also issued. from an under-represented environment.

“Candidates of color are particularly more likely to apply when other people of color with power are actively recruiting them.”

White men may be more likely to maintain the status quo and not promote a job outside of their own networks because this approach has served them well, said study co-author Christiane Spitzmueller, professor of psychology. industrial and organizational at the University of Houston.

“A lot of older white men who have spent their entire lives at the academy are like, ‘We always just hired by posting an ad and seeing who applied,’ and that has been their approach to recruiting for decades,” she told HuffPost. “And they’re like ‘Look how awesome this band is [of candidates] that’s, why would we change anything, it got us all here.

Women and / or people of color have different approaches to conducting a job search.

Ultimately, the study underscores the importance of networks of hiring managers. The researchers found that including a language on the job listing that went beyond the legal requirement to welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds did not have a significant impact on applicants. However, networking and proactive targeting of under-represented candidates on job boards and through other official channels had the greatest effect in increasing the diversity of candidate pools.

“If minority applicants are not informed of a job offer, they will not apply; if fewer minorities apply, there is less chance that the potential hiring will belong to a minority group, even if the later stages of the recruitment and selection cycle follow practices favorable to diversity, ”the study said.

Race and gender played a role in the recruitment strategies chosen by professionals when they were in charge of hiring. The white women and women of color in the study leveraged their personal networks and nominated other women to sit on the committee with them, while people of color, men and women, posted job offers. on websites specific to women and minorities and collaborated with the university’s recruitment, retention, equity and diversity office.

The Faculty of Color has outperformed other groups in bringing together a “richer and deeper applicant pool” of more diverse applicants, Spitzmueller said.

She suggested that this could be because teachers of color know they need to be persistent and find creative mechanisms to overcome structural barriers to recruitment. The study also suggested that professors of color did not nominate more peers of color to sit on their research committees because there were few other faculty of color to choose from.

“Understand that BIPOC and women often have no choice but to be part of the change we want to see in diversity, belonging and inclusion, but white people and men often have that choice. “

– Nadia de Ala

Lisa Orbé-Austin, executive coach and organizational consultant, said the results did not shock her. She noted that people of color might also go through formal channels on personal networks to legitimize their choices – they may feel they need to rely on objective metrics and sources because when personally referring candidates , they and the candidate are more likely to be watched.

People of color leading the research may also try to institutionalize change through job boards so that an organization’s diversity initiatives outlast a person’s tenure, Orbé-Austin said. .

“As long as I’m here, I can find talent, but the minute I go there, they’re not able to find the talent anymore because the talent goes through me,” she said, some can think.

One person can make a difference, but it’s up to everyone to make a job search more inclusive.

Of course, the burden of ensuring that job applicants best reflect the institution should not fall solely on women and / or people of color.

“It is inexcusable these days that diversity initiatives fall on the shoulders of those most affected by the lack of diversity, such as BIPOC and women,” said Nadia de Ala, founder of Real You Leadership, a coaching group. program for black women, indigenous people and other people of color. “Understand that BIPOC and women often have no choice but to be part of the change we want to see in diversity, belonging and inclusion, but white people and men often have that choice. “

De Ala recommended that employees who do not come from unrepresented backgrounds educate themselves on how they can best support diverse candidates.

“Read articles, books, studies, read a lot,” she said. “Be prepared to be uncomfortable creating an internal change within yourself and an external change in your actions by putting into practice everything you learn to increase your impact on hiring, belonging and retention. everyday diversity. “

Another way to make this fair trade fair is for employers to recognize it as work. Spitzmueller recommends that organizations compensate women and / or people of color for the time they spend leading and serving on recruiting committees and ensuring that their impact is recognized in performance reviews.

“There are a lot of things that are in demand, especially of women of color,” she said. “It’s mentoring, it’s committees, it’s a whole range of service requests.

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