Recruit and retain a diverse faculty

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The lack of diversity in economics department faculty may deter students from underrepresented groups from pursuing further studies in economics. Rigorously derived evidence supports this hypothesis. Using a data set with random assignment of students to professors, Carrell, Page, and West (2010) find professor gender in introductory math and science courses “has a powerful effect” on female students’ performance in the class and on the likelihood of pursuing majors in the field. Fairlie, Hoffmann, and Oreopoulos (2014) find similar effects for underrepresented minority college students. At the graduate level, Hale and Regev (2014) and Neumark and Gardecki (1996) find that having more female faculty members leads to more female students entering and completing economics PhD programs.

While there are a variety of possible mechanisms through which instructor identity can affect student performance, 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 different perspectives in the economics classroom.

Resources for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty

  • The AEA's CSMGEP collects and disseminates information on job opportunities and on minority PhD candidates.
  • Since 2008, the Research Network for Racial and Ethnic Inequality has received funding from the National Science Foundation for the Diversity Initiative for Tenure in Economics (DITE). DITE is a mentoring program targeting junior scholars in economics from underrepresented groups and junior scholars in economics who will promote greater diversity in the economics profession. More specifically, DITE conducts a 1 ½ day research and mentoring workshop that seeks to facilitate the successful transition of non-tenure track faculty to tenure track faculty or from junior faculty status to a tenured, associate professor position among economists who diversify the economics profession. DITE provides long term professional development guidance to the junior scholars who participate. The program seeks to include all identifiable recent Ph.D. economists from groups underrepresented in the economics profession or who display a strong commitment to diversification of the demography of the economics profession.
  • 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)