Leading Departments and Workplaces

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  1. Implement a structured and fair recruiting process.
    Adopting best practices in recruiting can increase the diversity of candidate pools and decrease the influence of human biases on hiring decisions.

  2. Conduct promotion, tenure, and annual performance reviews in a transparent and equitable manner. 
    Being transparent about the criteria that will determine evaluation outcomes, and thinking carefully about what those criteria should be, can reduce the biases that taint evaluation processes.

  3. Implement an inclusive process for admitting and developing graduate students. 
    Departments can structure their admissions and advising processes to identify, recruit, and develop a much wider range of talent.

  4. Create an inclusive, constructive culture and deal firmly with instances of exclusion, harassment, discrimination, and disrespectful treatment. 
    Clear and consistent communication about expectations for behavior and firm action when those expectations are not met can help establish a positive, productive, and inclusive culture.

  5. Structure your meetings and workplaces to be inclusive. 
    Inclusive procedures and practices can increase productivity, avoid marginalizing certain voices, and ensure all members of the community have access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.


Implement a structured and fair recruiting process.

Adopting best practices in recruiting can increase the diversity of candidate pools and decrease the influence of human biases on hiring decisions.

How to Implement

  • Craft job announcements that reflect appreciation of various strengths and that do not unnecessarily limit the range of people who see themselves as qualified. Signal explicit interest in employee diversity; one strategy is to request statements describing candidates’ records of fostering diversity or inclusion in their professional activities.
  • Circulate job announcements widely, and actively recruit candidates from underrepresented groups. Minimize the role of traditional networks in the hiring process. 
  • Determine evaluation criteria thoughtfully, before you begin your search. At all stages of the recruiting process, seek to collect and record evidence on these criteria using a standardized form. 
  • Appoint a search committee that can identify and appreciate candidates’ diverse strengths and that understands the value of employee diversity. Divide the work of reviewing files among many committee members so that they can review files in a deliberate manner. Conduct interviews in a uniform and legal manner. Standardize interview questions. Create an atmosphere that will be perceived by all candidates as safe, welcoming, respectful, and professional. 
  • Strive to provide all candidates with a fair and consistent experience during on-site visits. Offer the same information and opportunities to all fly-out candidates.
  • Make decisions using your predetermined evaluation criteria and accumulated evidence and taking into account the well-established biases against women and URM candidates, which will be reflected in your own and others’ evaluations.
  • Record the composition of the pool at all stages of the recruiting and evaluation process. Note patterns and trends, and use the data to improve your performance at each stage of recruiting. Others may also be scrutinizing your department’s statistics as well (e.g., Wessel, Sheiner, and Ng (2019) and Friebel and Wilhelm (2019)).

Research and Resources

Price and Sharpe (2018) document the large number of educational institutions in the United States that have never hired a black economist. To help improve that statistic, it is incumbent upon institutions to approach recruitment of diverse candidates more aggressively and strategically. As part of that effort, a thoughtful job ad can draw in a broader pool of candidates. Flory, Leibbrandt, Rott, and Stoddard (2019) “use a natural field experiment to test several hypotheses on effective means to attract minority candidates for top professional careers. By randomly varying the content in recruiting materials of a major financial services corporation with over 10,000 employees, [they] find that signaling explicit interest in employee diversity more than doubles the interest in openings among racial minority candidates, the likelihood that they apply and are selected. Impacts on gender diversity are less sharp, and generally not significant.”

Many academic and nonacademic economics departments now ask candidates to submit diversity statements. While we have no evidence on their effects beyond the possible signaling value, the purpose is to allow candidates to emphasize another dimension on their potential contribution to the organization and to encourage the hiring committees to think more broadly. For example, consider the job announcement for an assistant/associate/full professor position posted in 2019 by Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley provides publicly available guidelines for writing a diversity statement (UC Berkeley Office for Faculty Equity and Welfare 2019). Of course, these statements should not be used as a way of narrowing diversity of thought, but rather to encourage both applicants and committees to think through the value of having people who think differently and come from different backgrounds in the organization. In addition, search committees can examine other application materials to determine whether candidates have cited a range of authors and journals in their papers, considered differences in economic experiences across different groups in their research, taught inclusive courses, mentored a diverse group of students, and advanced diversity and inclusion through their service work.

Share your posting with organizations that include persons traditionally underrepresented in economics. Such organizations include CSWEP, CSMGEP (including the Mentoring Program listserv), the National Economic Association, the American Society of Hispanic Economists, and the Sadie Collective. Ask these groups to circulate your posting to their members and followers. Be sure to allow sufficient lead time for adequate dissemination.

The #EconTwitter hashtag is a useful tool for learning about diverse candidates. For example, there are threads that attempt to list every woman economist (e.g., Doleac 2018) or Black woman economist (e.g., Opoku-Agyeman 2019) on the job market each year, with links to websites and job market papers.

Setting specific criteria for evaluating candidates—thoughtfully and in advance of your search—may help reduce the influence of cognitive biases (Uhlmann and Cohen 2005; Bertrand, Chugh, and Mullainathan 2005). Substantial evidence supports the notion that implicit and explicit biases distort evaluations of women and URM economists (e.g., Card, DellaVigna, Funk, and Iriberri 2019; Hengel 2019; Hospido and Sanz 2019; Wu forthcoming; Ginther and Kahn 2014; Ceci, Ginther, Kahn, and Williams 2014). For instance, women economists receive less credit for coauthored papers when their portfolios are evaluated by other economists (Sarsons 2017). Articulating criteria helps departments realize the array of attributes that are valuable in colleagues, keeps the focus on collecting and evaluating evidence, and brings rigor to recruiting processes that had relied on vague notions of “fit.” The Federal Reserve Board does not consider “fit” when recruiting economists because “we want to discourage any notion that the productivity of the prospective colleague might be positively related to his or her similarity to the incumbent members of the section. On the contrary, we want sections, if anything, to focus more on who they are missing from their teams, and therefore on who might best be able to complement the skillsets already represented in the section. The goal is to build the strongest team for getting the job done” (Wilcox 2017). The evaluation criteria and form that the Federal Reserve Board uses in hiring economists provide one example of a thoughtful and structured way to evaluate candidates.

Seemingly neutral criteria and decision rules can result in bias, however, so evaluation criteria must selected and phrased with care. Bayer and Rouse (2016) note that discrimination that can occur “when facially neutral policies and routines of an academic department or instructor have, in practice, a disparate impact by gender or race. For example, a de facto practice to hire candidates only from elite PhD programs (or to admit PhD applicants only from elite undergraduate institutions) may produce systematic disadvantage. Indeed, economists do in fact display a high propensity to hire from top ten graduate programs as compared to other disciplines (Wu 2005). Alternatively, the use of a decision rule eliminating all junior job candidates who took more than six years to complete their PhD would disproportionately impact members of racial and ethnic minority groups, and to some extent women, for whom longer times to PhD completion are more likely. . . . When developing criteria to evaluate candidates, colleagues, or students, the goal should be to set sufficiently broad and fundamental criteria to allow all types of candidates to reveal their strengths and potential.” 

Conducting interviews in a uniform manner enhances your ability to compare candidates on a consistent basis and reduces the chance for affinity bias to disadvantage women and other minority candidates. Ask the same core set of questions of every candidate, and allocate time consistently across topics. Share the intended broad outline of the interview with each candidate at the start of the interview. This practice allows all parties to be aware if some major topic has not been covered by the end of the allotted time. Interviewers should prepare equally for each interview. Recommendations, CVs, and the job market paper should be reviewed prior to the interview. Interviews should not take place in hotel bedrooms. Consult the American Philosophical Association's best practices for interviewing, and note well the admonition that "members of the hiring committee are to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and refrain from behavior that may distract or intimidate the candidate" (Driver 2015).

Know what questions you cannot ask. Prohibited questions include those pertaining to marital status, national origin, religion, race, and pregnancy status. Whether during formal interviews or over dinner, asking questions in these areas would violate both the AEA’s standards and U.S. law. For examples of questions that cannot be asked, see the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (2019) list of prohibited employment policies and practices, under the heading “Pre-Employment Inquiries,” and the Society for Human Resource Management’s (2018) “Guidelines on Interview and Employment Application Questions.” 

Share the same rich array of information about the work and life advantages of your department with all candidates. Do not attempt to guess who might be interested in information about, say, childcare benefits or data availability.

Communicate your expectations for the on-site visit before the candidate arrives. If the candidate is to give a presentation, tell them the expected number of attendees and the level (PhD or undergrad), length, and location of the talk. Also notify them of other main elements of the on-site visit. Ideally, arrange for all candidates to meet with a consistent group of interviewers. If this is not possible, arrange for all candidates to meet with an equal number of incumbents with similar positions and ranks within the institution. Provide time to meet with a group of current employees who are not members of the search committee and who do not report back to them, so that job candidates have the opportunity to ask questions that might otherwise be uncomfortable (Mora 2017). 

As the recruiting process begins, make sure members of your department review the material in this resource that deals with audience behavior in seminars, bias in letters of recommendation, and the value of diversity. Remind all participants that their evaluations, too, are subject to bias that disadvantages economists from underrepresented groups. “It is clear that the approach of simply trying to be gender-blind is insufficient. Trying to avoid conscious discrimination under the presumption that implicit bias only afflicts the judgment of others is a recipe for gross gender imbalance and a playing field tilted heavily against women” (Romer and Wolfers 2018). 

A more aggressive approach would be for departments to adopt some version of the “Rooney Rule” (used by the National Football League); Price and Sharpe (2018) suggest that economists commit to interviewing a Black American for every opening involving a tenure-track position. While this approach would be difficult to implement for all job openings, it does represent one way for departments to truly commit to searching for qualified minority applicants when seeking to fill positions. We emphasize it would be shameful for such an effort to result in disingenuous interviewing in which Blacks and other minorities are rarely, if ever, hired. The goal is a real change in outcomes: for organizations to genuinely and sincerely increase the numbers of URM applicants in the pool, to interview, hire, and promote them, and to not stop with one.

For one example of how another discipline is attempting to improve recruiting practices, see the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities (2018). For best practices targeted specifically at minority faculty recruitment in the field of psychology, see Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment, Retention, and Training in Psychology (2019).

 

Conduct promotion, tenure, and annual performance reviews in a transparent and equitable manner. 

Being transparent about the criteria that will determine evaluation outcomes, and thinking carefully about what those criteria should be, can reduce the biases that taint evaluation processes.

How to Implement

  • Articulate thoughtful and inclusive criteria that will be used for every person being evaluated for tenure or otherwise rated, and be clear about the weights assigned to the various criteria. Apply the criteria consistently by using a standardized form to collect information.
  • Communicate evaluation criteria widely and consistently so that everyone knows how they will be evaluated. Conduct annual reviews for each junior member of your department, whether required or not, and be upfront about how that individual is succeeding and how they might need to improve. 
  • Lead a department-wide discussion of the individual qualities and activities that are valuable to your workplace and on how candidates will be reviewed with respect to those values. 
  • Do not rely exclusively, or even primarily, on student evaluations of teaching to inform tenure and promotion decisions. Collect additional or alternative sources of information, including course materials, peer observations, and instructor teaching statements. 
  • When considering letters of recommendation, bear in mind that they reflect and perpetuate common gender/racial biases.
  • Do not believe that you or members of your department are immune from bias in your own evaluations. Track outcomes at all phases of the promotion process. 
  • Treat unsuccessful candidates with decency. 

Research and Resources

Gender gaps in salary, tenure, and promotion conditional on standard measures of productivity are larger in economics than in other math-intensive fields and in other social sciences (Ceci, Ginther, Kahn, and Williams 2014; Ginther and Kahn 2014). Survey evidence suggests that similar disadvantage exists for URM economists (Allgood, Badgett, Bayer, Bertrand, Black, Bloom, and Cook 2019; Price 2009). In their Journal of Economic Perspectives article on the stalled progress of women in economics, Lundberg and Sterns (2019) conclude, “It appears that women are held to higher standards than men of equal ability, and need to publish more, higher-quality work to achieve equal levels of success in this profession.” 

Be aware of the documented biases regarding the evaluation of the work of women and URM economists. These biases affect judgments of departmental colleagues as well as those of external letter writers. For instance, Sarsons (2017) shows that women get less credit in promotion decisions for papers coauthored with men; “conditional on publication quality and other observables, men are tenured at roughly the same rate regardless of whether they coauthor or solo-author. Women, however, become less likely to receive tenure the more they coauthor. The result is most pronounced for women coauthoring with men and less pronounced among women who coauthor with other women. An on-line experiment finds similar patterns when women perform male-stereotyped tasks.”

Certain evaluation processes can help reduce the role of bias in evaluations: for example, establishing predetermined evaluation criteria and weights, using a form to record evidence of candidates’ competencies and achievements, devoting ample time to collecting evidence, abandoning “fit” as a criterion, tracking progress, and strategically setting defaults (Bertrand, Chugh, and Mullainathan 2005; Soll, Milkman, and Payne 2014). The ADVANCE Program at the University of Michigan (2004) provides a faculty annual review form template for collecting information uniformly across all faculty members; the diversity office at your institution may make a similar template available. The Federal Reserve Board’s (2017) “Guidance for Promotion to Principal Economist in the Division of Research and Statistics” provides an economics-specific example of evaluation criteria and processes; this document is distributed to guide both promotion decisions and the career development of economists who will go up for promotion in the future. 

Consider what your department’s criteria should be and how they will be measured, without relying on past practice. In academia, the traditional criteria are teaching, research, and service. How, specifically, will you measure the quality of contributions in each of those areas? Are there other characteristics that should also be assessed? Where does mentorship figure into your evaluation system? How will you value and incentivize service work that is necessary to the well-being of the group? 

Collect both quantitative and qualitative data on candidates from various sources. Relying on “soft” criteria alone can lead to discriminatory practices—such as hiring one economist because they seemed “high IQ” over another with more publications because they were soft spoken—so counting single-authored and coauthored publications, as well as the number of students mentored and the amount of committee service, provides a more concrete appraisal of a candidate’s contributions. But pure numeric decision rules can also result in bias. For example, using quantitative measures, such as summative teaching ratings or the h-index, without awareness and additional information results in poor promotion and tenure decisions given the known biases in classroom and editorial evaluation processes. The goal is to collect a broad and inclusive range of evidence on a broad and inclusive set of criteria to allow all colleagues to reveal their strengths and contributions (Bayer and Rouse 2016). More inclusive standards would, for example, consider public policy or community impacts as research impacts (Dion, Mitchell, Sumner 2018) and value the alternative pathways taken by women and URM economists to and through their careers (Turner, Viernes, and Myers 2000; Husbands Fealing, Lai, and Myers 2015).

Criteria and weights should be publicly known. Such knowledge will enable those being evaluated to focus their efforts in directions that reviewers will judge as most productive. And the criteria and weights that are used in practice should be the same as those communicated to candidates. To ensure that evaluation standards are being applied transparently and consistently, maintain open communication across all levels of review—throughout the department and by the dean, president, board, and/or any others involved. Procedures for handling information received outside the formal review process, such as an unsolicited letter submitted to a dean, should be widely broadcast and uniformly respected. The American Council on Education et al. (2000) offers a somewhat dated but still-useful guide for department leaders on issues related to hiring and promotion.

Student evaluations of teaching should be used carefully, if at all, for personnel decisions. “It is simply a matter of time before a class-action lawsuit is filed against an institution for knowingly using biased instruments in evaluating its faculty” (Owen 2019). Extensive research reveals the gender and racial bias reflected in student evaluations (e.g., Mengel, Sauermann, and Zölitz 2019; Boring, Ottoboni, and Stark 2016; MacNell, Driscoll, and Hunt 2015; Carrell and West 2010; Bavishi, Madera, and Hebl 2010; Kaschak 1978; Sinclair and Kunda 1999; Sinclair and Kunda 2000; Neath 1996; Fich 2003). In fact, “student responses to questions of ‘effectiveness’ do not measure teaching effectiveness . . . and are valuable [only] when they ask the right questions, report response rates and score distributions, and are balanced by a variety of other sources and methods to evaluate teaching” (Stark and Freishtat 2014). Individual institutions, such as the University of Southern California, and professional organizations, such as the American Sociological Association (2019), have adopted alternative methods to assess teaching effectiveness.

Letters of recommendation also reflect and perpetuate common gender and racial biases; see the third Colleagues section for a full discussion. Read letters with this knowledge in mind, and consider adding antibias language to the instructions evaluators are given (Peterson, Biederman, Andersen, Ditonto, and Roe 2019). 

More generally, economists may want to think more expansively when considering how to evaluate their colleagues’ work. Akerlof (forthcoming) recommends “greatly increased tolerance in norms for publication and promotion, as one way of alleviating narrow methodological biases,” which he argues are “biased in favor of the ‘Hard’ and against the ‘Soft.’ This bias leads to ‘sins of omission’ in which economic research ignores important topics and problems when they are difficult to approach in a ‘Hard’ way.”

Heckman and Moktan (forthcoming) examine “the relationship between placement of publications in Top Five (T5) journals and receipt of tenure in academic economics departments . . . [and] find that T5 publications have a powerful influence on tenure decisions and rates of transition to tenure. . . . Pursuit of T5 publications has become the obsession of the next generation of economists. However, . . . we believe it unwise for the discipline to continue using publication in the T5 as a measure of research achievement and as a predictor of future scholarly potential. The need for change is made ever more apparent by the T5’s inadequacy as a predictor of individual article quality, much less the quality of a person. It also has an apparent gender tilt. . . . The appropriate solution to the problem will require a significant shift from the current publications-based system of deciding tenure, to a system that emphasizes departmental peer-review of a candidate’s work. Such a system would give serious consideration to unpublished working papers and the quality and integrity of a scholar’s work. By closely reading published and unpublished papers rather than counting placements of publications, departments would signal that they both acknowledge and adequately account for the greater risk associated with serious scholars working at the frontiers of the discipline.” Their conclusion that “in the long run, the profession will benefit from application of more creativity-sensitive screening of its next generation” depends critically on economists learning to do that screening in a bias-free and inclusive way.

 

Implement an inclusive process for admitting and developing graduate students

Departments can structure their admissions and advising processes to identify, recruit, and develop a much wider range of talent.

How to Implement

  • Communicate to prospective students, through your departmental website and during on-campus visits, your department’s past steps and future plans to create a welcoming and inclusive environment.
  • Conduct a holistic review of applications, including personal statements and professional experience, rather than relying on narrow quantitative metrics.
  • Establish structures to orient and educate graduate students inclusively and effectively.
  • Also develop guidelines for faculty who employ predoctoral research assistants and confirm that proper hiring and management procedures are in place. See Boustan (2019) for an example.

Research and Resources

Boustan and Langan (2019) find that “there are large differences in culture and practices across graduate programs in economics; these differences are associated with better and worse relative outcomes for women. Important differences across departments include the number of women on the faculty, regularized opportunities for contact between advisors and students, and collegial research seminars.” Working toward excellence in all of these dimensions is essential to building a premiere PhD program.

To communicate their commitment to providing a positive and productive experience for graduate students, departments can publicize their use of AEA best practices. They can share the current and planned number of women and URM economists on the faculty as well as the influence of those economists on the graduate student experience. They can describe the structure of the adviser–advisee relationship, the measures taken to guarantee equal access for members of underrepresented groups, and the department’s culture and plans for future advances. Given that half of prospective graduate students do not have U.S. undergraduate degrees, the department’s website and other online materials are particularly important to equitable outreach. Program faculty can also make visits to economics departments at historically Black colleges and Hispanic-serving institutions (Sharpe and Swinton 2018).

Admissions reviews should rely on a variety of information and sources. Setting high cutoffs for GPAs and GRE scores can eliminate promising candidates who chose to take on academic challenges despite adversity in high school or college (Bayer and Rouse 2016). The Educational Testing Service (2018), which administers the GRE, advises that a cutoff score “should never be used as the only criterion for denial of admission or awarding of a fellowship,” yet more than half of the respondents in a survey of U.S. graduate economics programs require a minimum undergraduate GPA, a minimum GRE score, or both (Jeitschko 2019). The lack of careful attention to admissions evaluations “perpetuate[s] an entry barrier that excludes some of the best talent. As a result, we risk becoming a stagnant discipline whose inquiries do not address the critical economic and social questions that need our attention” (Jeitschko 2019).

Athey, Katz, Krueger, Levitt, and Poterba (2007) observe that “diligence, perseverance, and creativity—factors that surely matter for successful research careers and job placement—are difficult to define and measure. [Their] results suggest that there is not an easily recognizable star profile or single path to success for an economics graduate student.” Departments can take initiative to review applications from members of underrepresented groups, which likely involve less familiar circumstances, and can contact references and take other steps to put the case into context. They can also enlist the assistance of admissions officers on campus, who have experience reading applications holistically and have other strategies for understanding the strengths of all candidates. 

All enrolled graduate students should receive a thorough introduction to professional standards. Such an introduction should include a review of the AEA Code of Professional Conduct (AEA 2018) and the AEA Policy on Harassment and Discrimination (AEA 2019) and should emphasize that all persons are required to accept these policies as a condition of participating in AEA and department activities. Talk through your department’s own professional code of conduct and require graduate students to accept those policies formally. Ensure new matriculants understand that professional behavior is required from students and faculty at all times—including at gatherings outside business hours and in anonymous online postings—not just within the physical boundaries of school. Newcomers to a community often fail to understand that if any two or more members of your community are present, conduct standards apply regardless of the venue.

Add structure to faculty–student advising. Make departmental and professional information available to all graduate students, rather than relying on informal networks or individual advisers. Make sure each student has a mentor; informal relationships are likely to distribute opportunity unequally, which can be both inequitable and inefficient (Athey, Avery, and Zemsky 2000). Ensure mentors receive training in effective mentorship; publicly post departmental guidelines on mentorship to align expectations; and schedule regular, mandatory work-in-progress seminars for graduate students. (See the third Colleagues section and the first Students section for more on mentorship.)

Connect all students to resources and opportunities on and off campus. Barreira, Basilico, and Bolotnyy (2018) offer important recommendations to build an environment that supports the productivity and mental health of graduate students. Programs like the Diversity Initiative for Tenure in Economics are important support systems for students who are members of underrepresented groups. Burton and Willage (2019) maintain a list of economics conferences with dates, deadlines, and locations. Byrne (2019) offers a list of small grants that are ideal for graduate students.

 

Create an inclusive, constructive culture and deal firmly with instances of exclusion, harassment, discrimination, and disrespectful treatment. 

Clear and consistent communication about expectations for behavior and firm action when those expectations are not met can help establish a positive, productive, and inclusive culture.

How to Implement

  • Work with your colleagues to discuss, adopt, and enforce a code of conduct.
  • Lead from the top by making it clear that you will not tolerate problematic behavior and that you will enforce a high standard of behavior across all members of the community, without favor. Follow through. 
  • Educate your department on gender and racial issues in the profession by hosting speakers and sharing articles. Also help department members understand the broader social context in which they and their students operate, including historical patterns of racial discrimination in the United States.
  • Commission an external review of the department’s climate. 

Research and Resources

Bingham (2018) provides an excellent overall guide to “Addressing Sexual Harassment in Academic Institutions” in a recent issue of CSWEP News.

Leaders can propel the development, understanding, and enforcement of departmental standards and expectations while enlisting the whole department to learn and contribute. Leaders should organize conversations to develop a code of conduct and, once a code is established, send annual reminders, ensure orientation and signing for admitted students and new hires, and revisit the code periodically in faculty and student meetings. A universal understanding of the rules and expectations at your workplace is crucial given colleagues’ varied cultural backgrounds and perceptions of acceptable behavior. See the first Colleagues section for further discussion of the need for codes of conduct and how to implement them.

Department leaders and senior faculty should acknowledge and execute their critical roles in ensuring that all members of the community feel respected and able to function at their highest levels, free from concerns that might inhibit their success and sense of professional fulfillment. Research indicates that the most effective approach to diversifying a workplace is leadership from the top (Dobbin and Kalev 2016). Human resources policies, workshops, and other well-intended practices will be much less effective—and may backfire—if department leadership ignores the day-to-day behavior that wears people down.

Broad understanding of diversity and inclusion should be fostered from within the department, by engaging individuals to develop expertise and ownership. Enlist leaders of departmental committees and programs (e.g., recruiting, admissions, curriculum, seminars) to advance diversity and inclusion through their functions. Consider forming a diversity and inclusion committee to track how other major committees are progressing in implementing relevant plans. A committee can draft a diversity and inclusion statement and/or a code of conduct to be discussed and endorsed by the whole community and can invite speakers and organize special events. If such a committee is to be successful, it must have the visible support of department leadership, including but not limited to the chair.

All members of your community need to know basic information regarding bias, discrimination, harassment, bullying, and other forms of problematic behavior. Such knowledge includes a clear understanding of what constitutes prohibited and/or destructive behavior and a concrete plan of action in case one experiences, witnesses, or receives reports of proscribed conduct. Guiding examples can be found in the University of California (2019) Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy, the University of California (2018) Policy on Discrimination, Harassment, and Affirmative Action in the Workplace, and UC Berkeley’s (2019) Guidelines for Preventing and Responding to Faculty Bullying and Other Demeaning and Disruptive Behavior. Your institution may require employees to complete training on a regular basis.

Institutions of higher learning that receive federal funding must comply with the requirements of Title IX. Under the Title IX framework, certain persons are designated as “mandatory reporters.” If an allegation of misconduct is brought to a mandatory reporter, the mandatory reporter is required to inform the appropriate authorities at the institution. That report may trigger a formal investigation of the allegation and, if circumstances warrant, disciplinary action against the perpetrator(s). Some institutions have chosen to designate certain members of the community as confidential resources or ombudspersons. The definitions of these terms vary across institutions. Everyone in the department needs understand the specific options and obligations of all these roles—mandatory reporters, confidential resources, and ombudspersons—with respect to information reporting. 

Any AEA member who believes they have suffered harassment or discrimination or any person who believes they have suffered harassment or discrimination by an AEA member or in the context of an AEA-sponsored activity, as well as anyone who has witnessed such conduct, is encouraged to contact the AEA ombudsperson. An individual may join the AEA solely for the purpose of filing a report, and the behavior does not need to have occurred in the context of an AEA-sponsored event or activity or to have involved an AEA member. See the AEA website for more information on options and confidentiality. 

When allegations of prohibited behavior are brought to you, take swift action. Your institution will have professionals whose job responsibilities include addressing complaints of concerning behavior. Department leaders should rely on the specialized expertise of these individuals, know when to call upon them, and know whom to call under what circumstances. 

Take similarly unwavering action at the first report of behaviors that are not explicitly prohibited by institutional policy or the law but nevertheless are inappropriate or harmful. Make it clear to offending parties that these behaviors—such as hostile treatment of speakers in the name of “toughening them up” or “joking” about a peer getting opportunities due to their minority status—are unacceptable in your community. Enforce high standards of professional conduct across all members of the community, regardless of seniority. Strive to create a positive, constructive atmosphere in which individual and group accomplishments are encouraged and celebrated.

 

Structure your meetings and workplaces to be inclusive. 

Inclusive procedures and practices can increase productivity, avoid marginalizing certain voices, and ensure all members of the community have access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.

How to Implement

  • Run effective and inclusive meetings and discussions by taking a few straightforward steps before, during, and after the event.
  • Track the allocation of resources, opportunities, and nonpromotable tasks and be alert to concerning patterns.

Research and Resources 

Effective and inclusive meetings and discussions ensure that diverse perspectives are considered when making departmental decisions. Saunders (2015) offers a useful guide to determining whether a meeting is the best method for addressing a particular issue. If you hold a meeting, schedule it during a time slot that will not discriminate against certain groups of potential participants, such as those with family responsibilities at the end of the day. Ahead of the meeting, share a well-designed agenda (Schwarz 2015) and read-aheads to let everyone—including those less inclined to speak extemporaneously—think through the issues and know what they’d like to contribute (Cullinan 2016). Key elements of premeeting communication include the purpose of the meeting, how long it will last, and what a successful outcome would look like. Ask a participant to help you keep track of who participates during the meeting by recording basic data about participation time according to level of seniority, gender, and other relevant characteristics. A group’s performance is “correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group” (Woolley, Chabris, Pentland, Hashmi, and Malone 2010).

During the meeting, start on time and with brief introductions, including remote participants. Be prepared to adjourn the meeting if key constituencies are not adequately represented. Prevent the most senior members of the community from monopolizing the up-close seats, and let a more representative sample sit in positions where they can more easily contribute. Be prepared to prevent one or a few participants from dominating the discussion. Men are especially prone to do this (e.g., Ozler 2019, Cutler and Scott 1990). You could try something akin to the following: “Thank you for that thought. Now I’d like to hear from others who haven’t yet spoken today.” Be prepared to prevent intrusive interruptions. Again, men are especially prone to do this (e.g., Anderson and Leaper 1998). Try: “Please allow each participant to complete their thoughts before contributing your own.” In small meetings, have all willing participants speak at least once and on all key questions; in large-group meetings, try calling on every seventh attendee to get a range of views. Check in on remote participants regularly during the meeting, making sure they have the opportunity to offer their thoughts. Actively solicit the views of those who may hold a different perspective. Avoid dominating the discussion yourself, and express your view last, to give the greatest latitude for others to express their opinions and to show that you’re interested in hearing their perspectives. Ensure that those who contribute ideas receive appropriate credit: “Thank you for that thought. That builds on Shivani’s earlier insight.” 

If necessary, schedule a follow-up meeting rather than allowing self-selection to determine who disproportionately influences the outcome by remaining after the scheduled end of the meeting. Do not allow the outcome of the meeting to be relitigated out of sight of the original broad group of attendees. Circulate notes about what was decided at the meeting, why, and what next steps will be taken. Ask for feedback by email as to how the meeting could have been more inclusive or more successful. “We want our colleagues to recognize that ideas will be taken seriously; and that when they have good ideas, they will be acted upon. But that equally requires taking others’ ideas seriously, and looking for what is right in them as well as what is wrong” (Wilcox 2017).

Looking beyond meetings to other practices in the workplace, research finds concerning patterns in the how resources, opportunities, and nonpromotable tasks are allocated. Women spend far more time on service tasks than their male colleagues do (Link, Swann, and Bozeman 2008; Misra, Lundquist, Holmes, and Agiomavritis 2011; Mitchell and Hesli 2013). The AEA professional climate survey (Allgood, Badgett, Bayer, Bertrand, Black, Bloom, and Cook 2019, tables 5 and 5b) finds that women and URM economists report experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment with regard to service obligations at much higher rates than do their overrepresented counterparts: 43 percent of women versus 8 percent of men, and 26 percent of Black versus 19 percent of non-Black economists. The survey finds similar patterns of disadvantage in access to resources like sabbatical time, funding to attend conferences, and graduate student researchers.

The first step toward constructing an inclusive workplace is to know the patterns that exist in your organization. Track the allocation of resources, opportunities, and nonpromotable tasks and act on what you learn. In their report on ongoing efforts to ensure that all economists at the Federal Reserve Board “have the tools and opportunities to contribute fully to the mission of the [organization] and thrive as professional economists,” Covitz and Pence (2018) identify the importance of equal access to professional opportunities; “for example, we review the allocation of assignments to ensure that all economists have rewarding and challenging work. We aspire as well to be intentional about the distribution of service assignments so that no group bears a disproportionate load.” 

Women and URM economists are often sought out to provide representation on committees and staffing diversity initiatives. Departments can and should compensate those participating in these tasks with release from other time-consuming obligations and/or with resources. At Duke, assistant professors who participate in the Diversity and Inclusion Committee receive the equivalent of a research assistant’s worth of compensation in their research accounts. Similarly, while being cognizant of the need to allocate teaching to improve diversity, balance added teaching responsibilities with lighter loads in other areas to prevent a net increase in the professional burden on colleagues in underrepresented groups. Work with everyone in the department to ensure that colleagues’ workloads play to their strengths and that their contributions are rewarded. A “thank you” note from the department chair can signal that service work has been noted and appreciated, but a “thank you” is not sufficient to rectify inequities in the performance of service work.

Consider, too, how “the flow of information and resources is handled in your department. Do junior faculty who network well end up better informed about the department’s process and expectations at reappointment and tenure? Do junior faculty who are more assertive about requesting research resources or negotiating over their teaching preps or service assignments end up with an advantage? The more informal these decisions and information and resource flows, the greater potential for disparate impact on junior faculty by demographic background” (McKinnish 2017).

As explained in the Colleagues section, department practices can increase family friendliness and decrease the career costs of having children, particularly for women, through targeted, in-kind allowances for pregnancy and childcare; see in particular the fourth Colleagues section for more information about sometimes misguided attempts at gender-neutral policies.

The principles outlined here with respect to gender, race/ethnicity, and family status apply as well to other dimensions that differentiate individuals. For example, departments should develop accommodations for different-abled academics, tailoring them to the particular characteristics of the individual involved. Such accommodations may include fewer teaching preps, priority classroom locations, and recognition of the additional time completing professional tasks may take (Taylor 2019).

 

See References.

Please use the "Feedback on Best Practices for Economists” option on the AEA contact form to send questions and feedback.