NEWS’ VIEW: A long-term approach to faculty diversity

Yale cannot simply rely on hiring goals to diversify its faculty. As president, Peter Salovey will be able to oversee a broader cultural shift.
WarnertoWoodbridge

In 2006, our University launched an initiative to hire 30 minority and 30 female professors in the sciences and economics by June 2013. When Peter Salovey takes office as University president that month, all indications suggest Yale will fall short of its goal.

At this time last year, Yale had hired 56 minority and 30 female faculty members, but our University was only able to retain 22 and 18 of those professors, respectively. As Yale moves forward in its efforts to promote diversity, this experience reveals important lessons.

Hiring goals, while well-intentioned, are not enough to create change. During the Salovey administration, structural efforts will be needed as well. Yale must work to eliminate not only the barriers to entry that prevent women and minority faculty from entering the academy, but also the obstacles they face once they arrive.

In the short term, Yale must strive to eliminate subconscious biases in hiring. Studies in the social sciences have demonstrated that hiring committees tend to prefer men over women, and white candidates over people of color, even when those candidates have identical qualifications. Yale must acknowledge these biases in order to confront them directly in its hiring committees.

The University must also address questions of career advancement. According to a recent Women Faculty Forum report, almost identical numbers of women and men at Yale pursue academic careers up to the point of Ph.D. completion. After that, the numbers dramatically diverge; at Yale, women comprise only 34 percent of ladder faculty and 24 percent of tenured faculty.

Mentorship is an important step in resolving this divide. At a recent forum on faculty diversity hosted by the News, professors noted that their relationships with academic mentors proved a critical component of their early success.

To round out efforts to promote diversity, Yale must retain the professors it hires. Faculty members deserve exemplary child care services — which Yale has previously struggled to provide adequately. And mentorship must continue beyond the graduate level as professors work to achieve tenure, networking with the broader academic community and conducting and publishing research.

As the situation improves, hiring committees will see a higher representation of female and minority professors. Diverse faces in front of the classroom will prompt an important cycle of inclusivity, as greater visibility leads to a broader cultural shift. With these efforts to recruit and retain, diversity will increase and remain beyond the short-term fix of numerical targets.

If President Salovey begins his term in office by setting aside a specific budget to remedy these issues, he will be able to reap the benefits of time. The structural and cultural challenges that confront female and minority faculty cannot change overnight; as such, Salovey must take advantage of his potentially lengthy term to sustain efforts to promote inclusion, reviewing and, if need be, revising these programs annually.

By leading the effort to promote diversity, Yale can reshape its legacy into a tradition defined not only by academic strength, but also academic inclusivity.

Comments