Higher education is a hub for creativity, innovation and, of course, knowledge. With so many qualified educators hailing from different regions and academic institutions, it’s no wonder universities are known for cutting-edge research and top-notch education. Key to the institutions’ success is diversity in staff, faculty, and the student body.

There are compelling benefits of improving diversity in all fields, but particularly in higher education. In our complex, multidimensional world, it is essential that administrators provide their students with faculty and staff voices that originate from different backgrounds. Additionally, the more distinct voices and opinions a university has, the more opportunity the institution has to incubate creativity, innovation, and outside-the-box thinking. Most important of all, universities should take it upon themselves to recruit and retain diverse faculty and staff members to create a more equitable, socially responsible environment for learners and educators alike.

Recruiting diverse faculty members requires thoughtful action and engagement from a variety of stakeholders.. When you’d like to attract a more diverse applicant pool to your higher education institution, consider implementing specific strategies to put your diversity initiatives into action. To improve your recruiting and retention strategies so they accommodate diverse staff and faculty, think about transforming institutional leaders into advocates for change who thoroughly and consistently follow up and incorporate data-based strategies into their efforts.

Get the leaders onboard

For a university’s diversity initiative to reach its full potential, it is essential that executive leaders actively support the plan. These individuals should make themselves accountable for advancing the institution’s diversity, beginning with recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and eventually creating an institution-wide culture of inclusion. However, when it comes to setting an example for the rest of the staff and faculty to follow, speaking about diversity isn’t enough. To affect change on a large-scale level, leaders must turn their vocal support into concrete action. Rather than just speaking of the imbalances at a societal and institutional level, executive leaders should develop diversity plans of action and make sure colleagues, students, and members of the community are aware of these inequities and the action that needs to be taken to resolve them.

Follow through with ongoing efforts across the university

Developing a strategy for diversity isn’t enough; for it to be truly impactful, administrators and institutional leaders must follow through in creating a culture of diversity and inclusion. By making diversity an ongoing priority, universities are creating a culture that welcomes differences and embraces change. This, in turn, produces an environment in which diverse faculty and staff will be more likely to stay for years to come.

Develop data-driven recruitment strategies

Without a transparent view of diversity statistics for current staff, university leaders may not even know that their institutions are in need of more diverse employees and applicants. When administrators and department heads have access to comprehensive data on their faculty and staff, they are able to study employee demographics. They can share this information with academic affairs leaders and other professionals in charge of advancing diversity across the university. Equipped with up-to-date data and statistics, these professionals can develop impactful plans and strategize how best to use university resources to enact change.


Interfolio Faculty Search is a transparent recruiting platform that allows university leaders to view insights into all stages of the application process. One piece of information they can access is applicant diversity statistics, which are essential in the practice of equitable hiring. Find out more about advancing recruitment and retainment by developing an environment of diversity and inclusion.

We recently partnered with King’s College London to bring together experts in equality, diversity, and inclusion (‘EDI’) to discuss how technology can play a role.

What was the purpose of the workshop?

We gathered 17 inspirational diversity and inclusion advocates from 9 different institutions to hear their challenges and share ideas about how technology might provide solutions to address their own diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives. It was a passionate group, and a great opportunity to delve deep, explore ideas, and ignite conversations.

We’ve gathered our biggest takeaways, including the three recurring themes that emerged:

Takeaway 1: How do we enable the appropriate level of involvement from executive leadership downwards?

Executive support for driving diversity and inclusion efforts is vital. Does the representation at the top match the representation of the student population? Attracting and retaining university leaders from different backgrounds is imperative, and they should feel empowered to make authoritative decisions that help move EDI initiatives forward.

Executive leadership must demonstrate not only accountability and a strong commitment to EDI but should turn vocal support into action to address the imbalances at all levels of the institution. Leadership should have the proven skills, knowledge, and experience to endorse change and to align diversity and inclusion initiatives with institutional goals. EDI initiatives will thrive only when leadership steps up to own diversity and inclusion, encourage participation institution-wide, and make others aware of the consequences of inaction.

Takeaway 2: How do we ensure that we are starting with an EDI “lens” in the capture and use of data, rather than it being an afterthought?

Measuring success of EDI initiatives appears to be an area where higher education is still finding its way. Data collection is an important component in identifying inequality, initiating activity, and evaluating progress as required to meet legislation. With frequent misunderstandings around data legislations such as GDPR, knowing what to collect and how to be compliant can often be confusing.

Furthermore, equality monitoring can be a sensitive issue for staff and students. Low return rates can also diminish the quality and validity of data. Another issue is the lack of benchmarking data among universities, which makes it difficult to identify areas of underrepresentation or disadvantage. To drive trust in data collection, it’s essential to provide a statement explaining why the institution is collecting the data and the benefits, as well as communicating the positive impacts that quantitative and qualitative data collection produces.

When it comes to looking at technology, there is a historic lack of investment in systems to store crucial EDI data from multiple sources and to display metrics in user-friendly formats. The unreliability of this data means that institutions lack clear key performance indicators (KPIs) and tangible evidence to measure the effectiveness of EDI initiatives.

At many institutions, there is not budget for a full-time data specialist, so it can take weeks to gather and pull the data to measure EDI efforts, by which time the reports may be out of date. The available technologies are often fragmented and and stand-alone, without the ability to integrate with other systems. Data analysis thus becomes a manual and time-consuming process.

Ideally, a technology solution that integrates with the student information and HR systems would help to improve EDI data capture and enable teams to easily create and view reports. Valuable capabilities would include dashboards to understand over- and underrepresented areas and tools to benchmark cultural attitudes over time. With this insight, institutions could assess how the EDI initiatives are affecting overall composition, and develop new strategies if the current are not obtaining the desired results.

Takeaway 3: How do we change the mindset around diversity and inclusion initiatives?

We heard that one of the biggest challenges is the perception that EDI is already being done ‘well enough’. We also discovered that EDI is relatively new as a priority, and as such, there can be resistance, similar to any new initiative and process. Although it may seem that people care about EDI, the amount of action doesn’t always match that enthusiasm. There is also unequal representation of minorities in university leadership resulting in varying levels of commitment to EDI amongst the higher education community and a lack of clarity over roles and responsibilities.

Higher education is often in a state of perpetual change, resulting in “change fatigue” for academic staff members and leaders. There is often an entrenched culture surrounding diversity, which can bring a lack of knowledge, prioritisation, accountability and awareness of these initiatives, as well as active resistance given these initiatives often challenge long-standing norms of the institution. For others, EDI initiatives may not even be on the agenda.

Institutions must ensure that EDI is everyone’s responsibility and make clear why it is important beyond the moral imperative. Leaders must support the transition from the current state to the future state, investigating the issues and gaps, and make EDI a core component of recruitment, not an add-on. Of course, success requires the correct systems, processes, and resources; not only technological or financial investment, but also internal resources (or outside expertise, in some cases) needed to deliver the change. EDI is often reliant on a few people (often volunteers) and good faith, yet it should be embedded in every role, every process, and across faculties, each with KPIs which can be measured.

The workshop provided a valuable opportunity to discuss the challenges facing UK higher education institutions and their EDI initiatives, with the aim to positively impact student success, improve the student and academic experience, and ultimately drive institutional performance.

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Interested in learning how The University of Maryland, Baltimore County used Interfolio to track EDI initiatives? Read the report.

Read our research on what’s keeping U.S. based colleges and universities from making real progress on faculty diversity.

Sarah Guerra, Director of King’s College London’s Diversity & Inclusion, spearheads the College’s strategic vision and implementation of diversity, equality and inclusion for the whole campus community.

Her leadership serves as a catalyst for organisational cultural innovation and generates activity that delivers against King’s ambitions to provide an extraordinary staff and student experience. We spoke with her to discuss the state of equality, diversity & inclusivity in UK higher education.

Why is diversity and inclusivity more important than ever in higher education today?

For me, diversity is a way of describing each person’s unique ability to participate. We know from so many studies and our own personal experience that different people have different levels of opportunity to do this. That, combined with the fact that we live in a complex, increasingly interconnected world with continually developing challenges—political, environmental, economic—means we need every bit of creativity, talent, and insight that we as a human race have to offer. We cannot afford to let any of it go to waste. The research higher education carries out is one of the ways we can meet these global challenges, as well as the education we provide developing the leaders and thinkers of the future. Ensuring that anyone with the talent and drive to become an academic can do so is vital to tackling global challenges.

What role do you believe academic staff composition has on the student experience?

Some may feel it is a cliché to say you can’t be what you can’t see! A colleague refined it recently to: you can’t be what you can’t imagine. Academic staff composition plays so many roles in the student experience, research quality, and global impact. Who you learn from becoming your role models and the people who help set and grow your aspirations. How much you connect with those around you plays into your self-belief, and self-belief has a direct impact on how “good” you are on any given day. So, the make-up of all university staff impacts the ability for students to feel empathized with and to feel related to, and these things influence students’ creativity, effort, confidence—which all feed into their achievement. Looking from a research angle the wider the variety of perspectives and inputs into research the more creative, informed and tested it is to find new answers or ways of solving the multiplicity of challenges in the world today.

What can institutions do to proactively hire a more diverse academic staff?

Where do I start? There is so much that we can do!

We need to make equality, diversity, and inclusion business-critical—like finance, like health and safety—and appoint Chief Diversity Officers and set KPI’s akin to any other key business measure. We must name the problem— and have good data that tells us exactly where we are.

We must invest in everyone we put in a management or leadership position: first recruit them specifically testing their inclusive capability, then continue to develop them to maintain it.

We must be clear about how important diversity (in all its forms) is in every manifestation of our universities. In all our policies, processes, documents, marketing—in writing, in imagery, at events—in all we say and do.
We must invest in great HR professionals and those with diversity and inclusion expertise, as well as review all our recruitment and selection processes—starting with what we currently define to be talent or merit and then reviewing all job descriptions and working patterns. Any time anyone is thinking about something new that needs doing, they have the opportunity to think about how to innovate and get a different kind of person in—rather than following our same, old patterns. We need to understand whether candidates are applying and if so what is happening them through the recruitment and selection journey; and, alongside this, we need to train all those who are doing selection to do it as inclusively and lacking in bias as possible.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

How do you think institutions can address the student achievement gap? What recommendations would you give?

Much of what I said for academic representation can be translated to students too; addressing academic representation is a big part of how we impact the student experience and achievement. One of the factors crucial to student achievement is students feeling like they belong—feeling that they are valued and respected – that everyone around them at their institution expects and wants them to do their best. This sets conditions that enable all students to thrive: people who feel comfortable in their learning environment will be able to access the resources they need, feel able to ask for help and take risks—all of which will lead them to be the best they can be. A key area that is emerging more and more is around how to ensure campuses are harassment-free and good quality, lawful dialogue, and debate enabled without shutting out voices or creating hostile environments. Universities need to attend to what this means in practice to help students develop but also ensure they feel safe.

And, by the way, don’t forget about professional services staff —they are just as important to the functioning of a university and the student experience as academics!

If you could wave a magic wand and fix one diversity and inclusion-focused practice or process that you think higher education could do better, what would it be?

If I had a magic wand, I would change how siloed universities are. I’d find a magic way of creating connections and helping people see how many different angles and facets most issues have. Then, people at the university would realize the need to address issues in a more coordinated way and see that if we access the breadth of our resources and talents we will make much more satisfying, sustainable and swift progress.

What role do you think technology can play to increase diversity and inclusion in higher education?

It plays such an important role. There is the obvious in terms of supporting the collection, monitoring and analyzing of data and insight, as well as how it supports recruitment, onboarding, training, and development. But I think there is so much more potential even than this—universities are massively complex and each internal component needs to link up and function in synchronicity with other parts, a bit like a human body. I believe technology can really help with this if we invest in understanding what it can do and are willing to open up our minds to how to work differently.

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Follow Sarah Guerra on social media: @equalitywarrior or find her on LinkedIn

How did London Business School implement an international faculty recruitment and hiring system that is optimal for both applicants and administrators?

London Business School had been using a manual process that slowed down their academic recruiting and hiring efforts. We met with Sian Smith, Assistant Director, Faculty, to discuss London Business School’s adoption of Interfolio and hear how their experience led them to become the first international school with a full faculty information system.

Improving the administrative processes created a better experience for their applicants

When asked about initial challenges, Smith cited manual workflows, endless spreadsheets for tracking candidates, and inconsistent submission of application materials. Originally, in 2014, they were looking for a system that could work for both administrative staff and faculty—but quickly realized that they needed a separate, more specialized system for academic staff.

Smith, part of the central office for faculty affairs, collaborates closely with London Business School’s seven departments for faculty hiring. With Interfolio, both Smith and her counterparts have drastically reduced the time spent on paperwork–making the process more efficient and transparent. Says Smith, “I used to receive a massive pack of all the documents in the internal mail, which was very time-consuming for the different subject areas. Now I just hop on the system, and I can download the CV it if I want and take a look before I go into the interview.”

Before Interfolio, faculty candidates were confused about what documents were required for their application. This lack of clarity resulted in incomplete applications and “email attachments flying around the place,” as hiring committee members had to track down documents, with much back and forth, causing extra time to be spent on the application process.

After implementing Interfolio for faculty hiring, the candidate experience is a smoother one, and the candidates’ documents are more accessible to committee members now that they are in a centralized, online location. When asked about the submission of required documents, Smith responded, “Now applicants can’t move forward in the process without doing those things. […] The experience of the applicant is really straightforward and clear.” As importantly, Smith mentions that the system is intuitive for staff to use as well.

Addressing faculty diversity and reporting

“We use it for hiring, annual review, and the performance review process, and we also use it for promotion to tenure and full professor and for PhD recruiting,” states Smith. London Business School adopted Interfolio’s Review, Promotion and Tenure module shortly after they implemented Interfolio’s Faculty Search. In 2019, they began implementation for Interfolio’s Faculty Activity Reporting module to become the first institution with a full faculty information system outside of the United States.

When asked the benefits beyond hiring, Smith responded, “We struggled to do diversity reporting before Interfolio. We had paper-based monitoring forms that we then transferred into a spreadsheet and created tables. Now we just download a spreadsheet of that data and adjust it into the template needed for the Equality & Human Rights Commission annual reporting.”

London Business School also plans to use faculty activity data for streamlining the accreditation process in a similar way. States Smith, “It’s very helpful for accreditation. Reporting for AACSB can be confusing. Now, we can run reports at the touch of a button versus doing manual spreadsheets.”

With the faculty information system being implemented shortly at London Business School, Smith is optimistic for the strategic results their institution can realize now that “we have everything we need in one place.”

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Sian Smith

Siân Smith is the Assistant Director, Faculty HR at London Business School. 

Learn more about Sian Smith and London Business School’s journey to the full faculty information system in the full webinar.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar.

One of the hallmarks of being a higher education professional is leading and serving on hiring committees. While this work is important to university life, how do you decide if you should serve on a hiring committee? What should your strategy be on selecting members to serve on a hiring committee when you are leading a search? These questions can be difficult to answer as they are nuances based on the position. However, I believe there are some things you should consider when leading and being asked to serve on a hiring committee. While this post does not capture the depth and nuance of hiring committees, below are my more topical tips and suggestions.

Be prepared for a significant time commitment

After serving on several hiring committees and having conversations with colleagues in the field, I have come to the conclusion that serving as the chair of a search committee is a significant time commitment. Not only are you responsible for selecting search committee members, you are also responsible for:

  • Serving as main contact for potential candidates with questions
  • Coordinating phone/Skype interview times for candidates and committee members
  • Coordinating travel for finalist interviews
  • Managing personalities of the search committee during candidate deliberations

With the above responsibilities in mind, it is critical to understand and embrace the significant time commitment before agreeing to serve as the leader of a search committee.

I have often been approached to lead and serve on committees unexpectedly. At the beginning of my career, I would often say yes on the spot. However, I was provided sage advice from mentors who explained the benefit of not saying yes right away. The advice given to me (which I pass along to you) is that when offered the opportunity to serve on a hiring committee, communicate to the requestor that you need time to review your schedule to ensure you will have ample time to commit to the search. Taking this approach will buy you a little time to evaluate the time commitment and value-add of serving on a hiring committee.

Establish a diverse hiring committee

Many higher education scholars have pointed out that who serves on search committees determines who is ultimately hired. In many examples, scholars point to the fact that higher education hires do not often reflect the diversity of the country—and this is due to search committees lacking diversity, specifically racial diversity. Thus, when thinking about establishing a search committee, it is important to ensure committee members come from various backgrounds, so your search develops a heterogeneous pool of candidates. Moreover, candidates from different backgrounds can use their networks to get the word out about the search.

Ensure positions are advertised widely

Part of the work of the search committee should be to advertise the position in a way that  creates a diverse hiring pool. Search committees do not often get diverse candidates because they do not advertise positions in places where those candidates fellowship. For instance, does your human resource office use the university’s Instagram and Facebook pages to target their hiring advertisements to spaces where diverse candidates spend their time online? Is your search committee reaching out directly to scholars of color to apply for positions? I would argue that institutions search far and wide for athletes, and I believe the same approach should be taken when recruiting higher education professionals. While there are several places to find higher education jobs (which I’ve discussed in a previous Smart Scholar series post), it is critical to find candidates in the spaces they frequent most.

Ensure the search process is ethical

It is important to ensure that the search process is approached ethically, for example adhering to a search process committee where members maintain confidentiality throughout. This prevents candidates who have personal or professional relationships with the search committee members from gaining an advantage in the job search. Moreover, in situations where there are internal candidates applying for a position, this is even more important, as having an ethical process will prevent external candidates from seeking legal action against the institution for a discriminatory hiring process. In response to instances of discrimination and racism on campus, institutions have developed equity and inclusion offices. I would suggest if your institution has such an office, have them talk to the search committee about ensuring an equitable hiring process. If your institution does not have an equity and inclusion office, there are some best practices in the text Diversifying the Faculty: A Guidebook for Search Committees by Dr. Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner.

What have your experiences been on leading and serving on search committees? Feel free to tweet me @ramongoings with your suggestions!

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings).