March 15, 2002
The PACWC recruitment and retention subcommittee met during 2000-2001 and in fall 2001 to examine the question "What are the impediments to recruiting and retaining women and people of color as faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh, and what recommendations can we make to the Provost to alleviate the situation?" There is no one answer that will meet the challenges and concerns of such recruitment and retention for every department or discipline.
There are many local factors and practices that need to be addressed. Although recruitment and retention of women and people of color raise many of the same issues about innovative thinking about diversity, about the nature of jobs and successful careers, we decided to divide the two issues, and to turn next to the question of retention. We offer here several recommendations that may facilitate the University's efforts in its recruitment plans, considering A) recommendations about preparation for recruitment and definition of the job, and B) recruitment of specific candidates.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BEST PRACTICES
A. Preparation for Recruitment and Definition of the Job
- Consultation with resource people about strategies, available pool of candidates, best practices, ways to define and publicize job
- Investigation of productive ways to expand conception of the field, credentials, terms of job
- Preparatory discussion with department about the importance of thinking about diversity outside the box and of such hiring
- Strategic advertising of job and contacting of graduate schools
- Innovative ways of trying to identify candidates for jobs
- Special grants to promote scholarship of women and minorities
B. Recruitment of Specific Candidates
- Access to faculty who can share critical information
- Checklist about what prospective candidates need to know to make a positive choice
- Thoughtful preparation of information about the community (University, City, Region): University programs, city web sites, real estate agents, local schools and facilities for children, local organizations, religious and civic groups
- Attention to assisting with spouse or partner relocation
- Interview Process
- Consultation on negotiation process
The PACWC recruitment and retention subcommittee met during 2000-2001 and again in the fall of 2001 to examine the question "What are the impediments to recruiting and retaining women and people of color as faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh, and what recommendations can we make to the Provost to alleviate the situation?" Although the issues of recruitment and retention are closely linked, and indeed many of the same issues arise in both discussions, the committee focused first on the issue of recruitment. Many of the issues of rethinking diversity and job parameters are as important for retention efforts as they are for the initial recruitment. But retention also raises particular local concerns about evaluation and mentoring, tenure and promotion, benefits and responsibilities. The committee, therefore, decided to report on recruitment first and will next turn to the issue of retention.
Our discussion of recruitment of women and people of color showed that there were widely different practices and experiences in different parts of the University community. There is no one answer that will meet the challenge and concerns of recruiting women and people of color, and the difficulties are different across disciplines, departments, and schools. Not all women or people of color will have the same concerns or questions. The most fundamental recommendation seemed to be the need to think about diversity in more innovative and constructive ways. Too often diversity is understood simplistically in terms of race or gender in isolation. Too often diversity issues are understood as identical across a range of different individuals and situations. It is limiting for the conversation about such recruitment to focus solely on whether the potential candidates meet established standards of excellence, of experience, of performance. It is far more productive to ask--as a discipline, a department, a school--"what kinds of issues, research, teaching might such a person bring to the University of Pittsburgh that we are now not pursuing?" "How might different kinds of experience, knowledge, career paths, presentation strategies enhance the University's mission?"
There are several factors to consider in building a successful recruitment program. Ultimately, a successful program requires a long-term vision--a vision that is targeted to individuals the University wants to attract. Such a program would take steps to increase the probability of attracting women and people of color to apply for advertised jobs, and would make it possible, once such candidates are known, for the University to do its best to make the hiring process a welcome, responsive, and supportive experience. The success of a recruiting program depends on innovative thinking from faculty and administrators throughout the University. The University can help encourage departments--by making resources available to them in structuring the recruitment and hiring process and by offering guidance on best practices and colleagues to call on for assistance. The University can demonstrate that the successful recruitment of women and people of color is highly valued by rewarding units that implement and demonstrate this value and by developing consequences for units unwilling to work towards meeting this challenge.
Recruitment Strategies and Best Practices for Increasing Faculty Diversity:
Strategies for successfully recruiting women and people of color involve thoughtful advance preparation and definition of the job, as well as thoughtful hiring procedures for hiring specific candidates.
A. Preparation for Recruitment and Definition of the Job
Successful recruitment of women and people of color often depends on the quality of advanced preparation and on the definition of the job and desired credentials.
- Consultation with resource people about strategies, available pool of candidates, best practices, ways to define and publicize job: We recommend that departments beginning such recruitment efforts consult with resource people--in other departments, in the administration, in the discipline and profession--about strategies for recruiting women and people of color, about best practices in hiring, ways to define and publicize a job. Most professional organizations have advisory documents on such recruitment, as do organizations focused on women and minority issues. The University currently helps departments by providing information on the available pool of candidates in given disciplines. The University could develop a clearinghouse to offer departments information and advice on successful recruitment strategies. There are many resources available--publications, web sites, studies, etc. Such advice should be readily available to departments to help them reconceptualize their search strategies. The subcommittee did preliminary work, for example, on the research of Colby & Foote (1995) who studied the minority recruitment and retention programs at Maricopa and California Community Colleges, Stanford, University of Wisconsin, and University of Texas, El Paso (their evaluations of such programs will be published in 2002). Web sites, like the one maintained by The Institute for Teaching and Research on Women, at Towson University, Maryland or the Diversity Web maintained by the American Association of Colleges and Universities can be valuable resources. It would be useful to follow up on such research and on the considerable work on gender and race as factors in hiring.
- Investigation of productive ways to expand conception of the field, credentials, terms of job: We recommend that departments investigate productive ways to expand a current conception of the field, of desirable credentials, of the terms of a proposed job. It is important to consider what will make such a job attractive to a candidate, and to consider how to weigh different kinds of experience and performance in determining a candidate's appropriateness.
- Preparatory discussion with department about the importance of thinking about diversity outside the box and of such hiring: We recommend that departments have a discussion about the importance of thinking about diversity outside the box and the importance of such recruitment efforts. It is crucial that such a discussion take place before the job has been advertised and before candidates are under consideration. Too often such issues emerge because a minority candidate is under discussion.
- Strategic advertising of job and contacting of graduate schools: We recommend that departments expand their strategies for advertising job openings: by placing ads in targeted publications, by contacting graduate schools that graduate likely candidates, and by contacting colleagues in the field who can recommend the University to a candidate (and vice versa).
- Innovative ways of trying to identify candidates for jobs: We recommend that departments expand their ways of identifying the "best" candidates for a job, considering a wider range of career trajectories, accomplishments, or expertise than has been the practice.
- Special grants to promote scholarship of women and minorities:We recommend that the University develop special grants to promote scholarship of women and minorities in particularly underrepresented fields. If there are not sufficient candidates available to make such recruitment successful, institutions need to be proactive in helping candidates achieve the publication and professional advancement needed. The University currently awards Provost Fellowships to encourage people of color to enroll in graduate programs and to have the time and resources to succeed in their study. In the past, the University has sponsored post-doctoral fellowships. A program like Bradford's Diversity Scholars Program might help expand the potential pool of candidates for University positions.
B. Recruitment of Specific Candidates
Defining an attractive job, developing an appropriate pool of candidates, making it possible for women and people of color to be selected for finalist positions--these are all part of the preparation for a successful recruitment effort. Once a candidate has applied, however, there is still much important work to do. In a process designed to find the best candidate for the university, it is important not to overlook the need to make the university seem the best job for the candidate. Below are our recommendations for improving the recruitment of specific candidates.
- Access to faculty who can share critical information: When women and people of color are brought to campus for an interview, it seems appropriate that candidates be given the opportunity to talk with other women and people of color at the University. Some candidates, although not all, will want to know what the experience of others has been at the University. They may have questions related to both professional and personal issues: for example, what are the opportunities and institutional support for community service based on a scholarly expertise? what are the housing opportunities in the city, suburbs, or rural areas? They may want to know things about the history or contemporary circumstances of institutions and traditions in the university and region. They may have questions about the likely acceptance in the community for interracial couples, for gays, for single parents. Some candidates may need to visit places connected with their lifestyle: neighborhoods, religious institutions, schools, childcare facilities. There may be personal lifestyle questions, such as the medical facilities and providers, park and recreation programs, cultural life, and personal safety. While such issues as these are of concern for all prospective candidates, they may be particularly important to women and people of color. It is important that such issues be raised with tact--perhaps most effectively as an integral part of the standard information offered to all candidates rather than as targeted to a particular candidate who is "presumed" to need such information. The challenge for the university unit that is hiring the candidate is to ask, "How can we facilitate a positive transition for this family?" "How can we help a candidate ask the questions that are important to a decision about recruitment?" Finding people who are willing and able to supply what may be specialized or unfamiliar information can be accomplished in several ways. Members of PACWC or Equipoise, for example, or participants in the Provost's Diversity Seminar, might be willing to assist with recruitment processes in departments with few women faculty or faculty of color. The University and departments should develop resource lists of individuals who could assist in the hiring process, who might meet with a candidate for lunch or attend a candidate's lecture.
- Checklist about what prospective candidates need to know to make a positive choice: We recommend that candidates be asked before their campus visit about what they need to know to make a positive choice. Departments could then develop a checklist to address such concerns and questions, to make sure candidates are meeting with appropriate resource people. A candidate's concerns may help a department think outside narrow limits of how people make job decisions. It may be important for candidates to know about resources outside the university, about women faculty at other colleges in the area, for example, or about people of color in the arts. It is often difficult to answer questions on the spot--and a lack of knowledge can be seen as a lack of interest or insight. But most candidates will appreciate the effort of a department that addresses their concerns--and that thinks such issues are important.
- Thoughtful preparation of information about the community (University, City, Region): University programs, city web sites, real estate agents, local schools and facilities for children, local organizations, religious and civic groups: The community may be a major factor in a candidate's decision about a job. It is important not to leave such information to chance. The experience of seeing a city for the first time with a real estate agent can outweigh claims made in university promotions. Candidates may have preconceptions about Pittsburgh, urban campuses, the north, the rustbelt, etc. that will shape their decision about a job.
- Attention to need to assist with spouse or partner relocation: The issue of spouse or partner relocation can be a matter of concern for any candidate, but may be even more important to women and people of color. When only one individual in a dual-career couple is being recruited, the University needs to help the process of locating meaningful employment for the partner. While assistance exists individually in different units of the University system, it would be helpful for the University to be proactive in creating a clearinghouse for such concerns--helping departments make productive contacts or offer information on job prospects to partners of potential hires.
- Interview Process: The interview process is often a powerful influence on a candidate's decision about a job, and it is important to remember that it is an occasion for presenting the department as well as the candidate. Careless or hostile questions can make a candidate feel that the department would be unsupportive of the candidate's work, or that the work would fall outside the department's interests or experience. It is important that the interview process show sensitivity to issues such as sexual orientation, children, religion, and race. Interviews can be enhanced by inviting colleagues with relevant knowledge, perhaps from other departments or fields or from the community. An interview that is structured as an occasion to meet a person, to find out about their knowledge and experience is quite different from an interview designed primarily to find out the candidate's weaknesses.
- Consultation on negotiation process: It is important to consult frequently and openly with the candidate during the entire negotiation process. Candidates should be kept up to date and should know when and how decisions are made. Candidates may not feel they can ask important questions if the department does not invite them to do so, or they may not feel that a particular need could be addressed unless it is explicitly mentioned by the Chair. We often focus on salary and rank as the most important issues in a decision about a job, but candidates may well be equally (or more) concerned about other features of the job: about work load, collegiality, opportunity for retention, opportunity for innovating curriculum, support for research or attendance at national conferences. We recommend that in this, as in the rest of the process, departments think carefully in advance about what issues may be important, that they seek advice from resource people, and that they ask the candidate.