Unconscious Bias Research
Research demonstrates that every one of us has a lifetime of experiences and a cultural history that influences our judgments during the review process. A first step toward ensuring fairness in the search and screen process is to recognize that unconscious biases and attitudes not related to the qualifications, contributions, behaviors, and personalities of candidates can influence our evaluations.
It is important to recognize that diverse paths and experiences can make positive contributions to a candidate’s qualifications. Acknowledge the value of candidates who are “less like us” and consider their contribution to our students who are increasingly more diverse. As a search committee, you are encouraged to think carefully about your definition of “merit”, taking care to evaluate the achievements and promise of each applicant, rather than relying on stereotypical judgments.
The search committee is cautioned to be mindful of biases in the screening process that could inadvertently screen out well-qualified applicants with non-traditional career paths, with non-traditional research interest or publications, and from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) or other minority-serving institutions. It is important to be aware of our biases and create a safe environment within the search committee meetings where demonstrated biases can be challenged and discussed openly to be eliminated from the evaluation process.
As you review applicant materials, be aware of conscious and unconscious biases that may exist, including those below:
- We frequently make judgements about people based exclusively on our own personal experiences.
- We have a tendency to favor people who look like us or have other experiences like our own.
- Underrepresented candidates and women are often penalized disproportionately, if reviewers do not allocate adequate time (15–20 minutes) to reviewing their materials.
- Be sure to consider whether you are using evidence to arrive at your evaluations/ratings.