One of the most important things I’ve learned in my twelve years in student affairs is that the success of my work depends on my ability and willingness to tap into the diverse perspectives and talents of team members. Our campuses are welcoming more non-traditional/post-traditional aged students, first generation students, students of color, and lower income students than ever before. This is good news! College should be accessible to all. And it’s imperative that students learn to interact and work together with people from all different backgrounds as they hone skills for the global workplace. Likewise, it’s important that our teams- student leaders, faculty, staff and administrators- reflect the various backgrounds and cultures of our students.
Even if our student populations weren’t changing, we should be committed minimizing institutional and personal practices that often act as barriers for hiring for colleagues from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. As a white woman from a family that expected me to pursue higher education (and had the means to support me), I look, sound, and act like the majority of employees at most of the places I’ve worked. I know that I haven’t had to work as hard as many of my colleagues to land a job, or prove that I could perform with the best of them. I therefore want to continue to challenge myself to dismantle biases in my own hiring practices so that I can surround myself with the best colleagues and teammates.
Inclusive hiring does not mean we will never again hire people who come from majority backgrounds. Instead, it means that each of us- hiring managers, members of hiring committees, and those who interact with candidates- must practice equity and hospitality. Inclusive hiring means that we truly are able to hire the best and most talented candidates for our positions because our own biases won’t get in the way.
Below are three resources on key concepts and strategies for inclusive hiring, and two for growing in your own cultural competence as you work with colleagues who may be different from you.
- Understanding Unconscious Bias (The Royal Society)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVp9Z5k0dEE This video is an excellent overview of concepts of unconscious or implicit bias and how it impacts the hiring process- both at a personal and institutional level. You can’t begin to understand and dismantle inequitable hiring practices until you understand how and why they came to be.
Culture Add vs Culture Fit - https://blog.entelo.com/why-you-should-be-hiring-for-culture-add-not-culture-fit A Google search on hiring for “culture fit” will bring up plenty of articles on examining and naming your organization’s culture, while challenging yourself to hire people who are culturally diverse- who are “culture adds.” Again, you cannot implement equitable hiring practices until you define your departmental and institutional culture and understand how difference can make your team stronger.
Oregon State University Search Advocate Program- https://searchadvocate.oregonstate.edu/ I must mention here Anne Gillies’ good work at OSU. She trained me as a Search Advocate in June 2018 and I have since worked with a team on my campus to implement the program strategies for hiring across our division and elsewhere at my institution. The Search Advocate program offers suggestions for mitigating biases and ensuring equity for all candidates throughout the recruiting, interviewing and hiring process. It includes tips for expanding your recruiting efforts, to writing inclusive job descriptions and position qualifications, and engaging in consensus building on hiring committees. In all my research on this topic, my experience is that the Search Advocate program is comprehensive in its approach to creating equity for all candidates in hiring processes.
Guess what, though! Adjusting your hiring practices to mitigate bias and inequitable practices is only the beginning. If you hire people who brings diversity to your workplace- who look, think, and act differently than the majority culture- it’s on you to co-create a workplace that will make space for the differences they bring.
Diverse Teams at Work (Anna Rowe and Lee Gardenswartz) - This book is a fantastic resource filled case studies as well as activities you can use to explore your own and other’s cultural identities so that you use differences as an asset to your functioning as good teams.
Everydayfeminism.com- https://everydayfeminism.com/There are certainly plenty of resources for understanding and growing in intercultural competence. I like this site because it addresses a number of culture identities and “isms” that show up in work and life through easy to read blogs and articles. I’ve used several articles here for training graduate students and in my own development as well.
As professionals who care about justice and inclusion, we should model to our teams and colleagues our willingness to grow and change, and to challenge the status quo in order to be sure that new hires and colleagues will also thrive in our workplaces. So, are you ready to get started?
Laura Igram, M.Ed., is Assistant Dean of Community Life at Biola University in Southern California and currently serves Communications Co-Chair for Women In Student Affairs Knowledge Community. Laura lives in Whittier, CA, with husband Jonathan and daughter Tessa. In her precious free time she loves trying new recipes, exploring local antique and vintage stores, and watching lots of reality TV.
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