How to Create a Search Process to Boost Diversity in STEM Faculty

A team of biomedical researchers from 16 top engineering programs in the nation has developed a set of processes that helps eliminate traditional barriers to historically excluded groups pursuing academic careers in biomedical engineering. The project grew out of a group called BME Unite, an informal network of dozens of biomedical engineers that came together in 2020. This group has formed several sub-committees that have published papers in scientific journals to combat issues of discrimination and lack of representation in academia.

To help diversify faculty hiring, the team published a hiring roadmap in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. The problem, the researchers argue in the paper, is that departments “lack the education and skills needed to effectively hire faculty candidates from historically excluded groups.”

The authors present six major steps that deans, department chairs, faculty, and administrators can take to overhaul their hiring processes.

1. Prepare the Department: Getting buy-in at all levels, from staff to faculty to leadership is key.

2. Plan the Search: A job search can take several months, but departments should spend significant time making a game plan for the search in advance.

3. Recruit a Diverse Pool: The search committee and department must actively search for and recruit talented applicants who bring diverse lived experiences to the department.

4. Access Holistically: To diversify the biomedical engineering faculty, search committees, and departments must break out of entrenched patterns of overlooking and undervaluing exceptional candidates from historically excluded groups during their assessment.

5. Interview Inclusively: To level the playing field, the researchers recommend being transparent about the interview process. They also advocate for including students in the process.

6. Recruit Proactively: Once a top candidate has been identified, they should get the opportunity to meet students and broad members of the university community. Showcasing the department and its vision and making the environment equitable in advance can increase the chance that the prospective faculty member will accept the offer.

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