Applicant qualifications and characteristics in STEM faculty hiring: an analysis of faculty and administrator perspectives

International Journal of STEM Education(2023)

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Abstract
Background The lack of racial diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines is perhaps one of the most challenging issues in the United States higher education system. The issue is not only concerning diverse students, but also diverse faculty members. One important contributing factor is the faculty hiring process. To make progress toward equity in hiring decisions, it is necessary to better understand how applicants are considered and evaluated. In this paper, we describe and present our study based on a survey of current STEM faculty members and administrators who examined applicant qualifications and characteristics in STEM faculty hiring decisions. Results There are three key findings of the present research. First, we found that faculty members placed different levels of importance on characteristics and qualifications for tenure track hiring and non-tenure track hiring. For example, items related to research were more important when evaluating tenure track applicants, whereas items related to teaching and diversity were more important when evaluating non-tenure track applicants. Second, faculty members’ institutional classification, position, and personal identities (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity) had an impact on their evaluation criteria. For instance, we found men considered some diversity-related items more important than women. Third, faculty members rated the importance of qualifications with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)-related constructs significantly lower than qualifications that did not specify DEI-related constructs, and this trend held for both tenure track and non-tenure track faculty hiring. Conclusions This study was an attempt to address the issue of diversity in STEM faculty hiring at institutions of higher education by examining how applicant characteristics are considered and evaluated in faculty hiring practices. Emphasizing research reputation and postdoctoral reputation while neglecting institutional diversity and equitable and inclusive teaching, research, and service stunt progress toward racial diversity because biases—both implicit and explicit, both positive and negative—still exist. Our results were consistent with research on bias in recruitment, revealing that affinity bias, confirmation bias, and halo bias exist in the faculty hiring process. These biases contribute to inequities in hiring, and need to be addressed before we can reach, sustain, and grow desired levels of diversity.
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Key words
stem faculty hiring,applicant qualifications
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