Taking steps to encourage diversity in faculty hiring
As Loyola University Chicago continues to address structural and institutional racism both on our campus and in our communities, one of the main priorities is implementing a new process to encourage diversity in faculty hiring. Across campus, 25 percent of full-time faculty have already participated on search committees utilizing the new process—which includes mandatory training to address implicit biases, required statements about equity and inclusion as part of job applications, and demographic research to ensure candidate pools reflect appropriate diversity.
Faculty at the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing have led the way. All 12 members of their faculty search committee completed the training and the new application process is in place for all open faculty positions.
“We’re looking at this holistically,” says Lorna Finnegan, dean of the nursing school. “We cannot be excellent unless we are diverse and have equity and inclusion. Those are fundamental pillars of excellence. And as part of the Jesuit mission, we focus on caring for the whole person, and diversity, equity, and inclusion are integral to that.”
Confronting implicit bias
This work is part of the University’s Anti-Racism Initiative (ARI), which was established in 2020 to address structural racism and work toward authentic change in our community, in the academy, and in our society. This new hiring process helps create a safe, respectful, inclusive environment for students, staff, and faculty of color, which is part of Goal 1, Strategy 3 of the ARI.
Badia Sahar Ahad, Loyola’s vice provost for faculty affairs, spearheaded the creation of the new hiring process and is leading the work.
“The first thing I did was make inclusive hiring practices explicit. Previously, implicit bias workshops for search committees had been optional, so we made them mandatory,” says Ahad. “Search committees, inherently, function as gatekeepers and the decisions they make have longstanding implications for the University. We all have biases, and it is important to have an awareness of our blind spots during the interview process.”
The implicit bias training for all faculty and staff who serve on a faculty search committee is offered by the newly established Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Liaisons (DEILs), another result of the ARI. Anti-bias training will also be offered for faculty and staff going forward, both for those on search committees and for anyone who wants to participate voluntarily to confront their own implicit biases.
Cultivating diversity in job applicants
In addition to addressing implicit bias, the new hiring process also aims to recruit more diverse candidate pools, so the people being considered for roles are reflective of the diversity in the field at large. Search committees will obtain demographic information using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and professional organizations in their respective fields. They will focus on racial and ethnic diversity, as well as underrepresented groups in the field.
“The point here is we can expect to hopefully see the percentages [from the demographic research] in our applicant group, which will help us make sure that we’re really conducting a search where we’re looking at the whole available pool,” says Finnegan.
“We cannot be excellent unless we are diverse and have equity and inclusion. Those are fundamental pillars of excellence. And as part of the Jesuit mission, we focus on caring for the whole person, and diversity, equity, and inclusion are integral to that.”
In additional to the traditional job application requirements, like a cover letter and curriculum vitae, each application will also require a statement about equity and inclusion. At present, the nursing school is hiring an associate dean for inclusive excellence, an associate dean for innovative partnerships and faculty practice, as well as several other faculty positions. A commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism will be essential for all of these positions.
“Decisions will be made based on whether candidates qualify for the position based on the job description, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are now a big part of that,” says Finnegan.
Not only is hiring a more diverse faculty essential to living Loyola’s Jesuit mission, Finnegan notes, it is also necessary to prepare the next generation of nurses learning at the University.
“A more diverse nursing workforce that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of the communities in which we serve is a tangible and essential step toward reducing health disparities and inequities,” says Finnegan. “Increasing student and faculty diversity in the nursing workforce pipeline is one step toward meeting that goal.”
Read more about the importance of this new faculty hiring process, as well as efforts to address implicit bias among faculty and staff, in this Q&A with Badia Ahad. For more details on the work of the Anti-Racism Initiative, read our mission.