5 April 2022

The State of Hiring Practices that Promote Diversity in the Astronomical Community

K. Azalee Bostroem University of Washington

Motivation

A charge of the American Astronomical Society's (AAS) Committee on Employment is to "promote fairness in the job market." As part of this mission, the equity subcommittee seeks to ensure the equitable hiring of a diverse and inclusive workforce. The first step in this process is to understand the current state of hiring. Towards this end, in March 2021, the Committee sent a survey to all people who advertised on the AAS Job Register in 2020 and all exhibitors at the 237th AAS meeting in 2021. The survey asked participants to select all practices performed by the organization to address the hiring of diverse1 candidates, with the option to include anything not already listed in the question. It is important to note that this was not a list of recommendations from the Committee, but rather a list of common practices. These practices are shown in Figure 1 below. We also requested any resources related to equitable2 hiring that the organization thought would be useful to the astronomical community.

63 respondents have job ads communicating DEI values of their org, 59 consider when assembling search committees, 56 include federal equal opp language, 51 question candidates the same order, 50 advertise to a diverse applicant pool, 48 train committees to eliminate bias, 44 compare demographic of applicants to short-list, 43 use rubric to evaluate interviews, 32 have intern/fellowship programs for underrepresented groups, 25 compare demographics of available to actual applicants, 15 train committees on how to interview, 9 use cluster hiring, and 5 provide interview questions to applicants prior to interview

Results

We received 74 responses which spanned all the practices listed in the survey question. The number of instances of each response is shown in Figure 1. We note a few observations below.

  • The community engaged in practices aimed at diverse hiring (8 of the 13 options were selected by over half of the respondents), however, there was significant variance in what practices were being used with no one practice being used by all respondents.
  • The most common practice was ensuring that the "job ad purposefully communicates diversity, equity, and inclusion values of your organization" (63 responses) followed closely by "diversity is a consideration when assembling search committees" (59 responses).
  • At the bottom of the list (least common practices) was "committee members are trained in how to interview" (15 responses), "cluster hirings" (9 responses), and "interview questions are provided to applicants prior to interview" (5 responses).
  • One aspect that was interesting to note was the discrepancy between the use of rubrics on applications and interviews (43 versus 34 responses).

Future Work

From this list of practices, the equity subcommittee identified interview training as the area in which we can make the largest impact on workforce demographics. We are currently investigating how to best provide this to the community. Additionally, we have organized and made the collection of resources garnered from the second survey question available at the Career Center at the 238th AAS meeting in 2021. We have compiled a list of highlights and best practices pulled from these resources, which will be made available at future AAS meetings starting with AAS 240 in Pasadena, and on the AAS Job Register.


We defined diversity as: Diversity: "the mix"; psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among any and all individuals; including but not limited to race, color, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, veteran status, education, marital status, language, age, gender, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, genetic information and learning styles. A diverse group, community, or organization is one in which a variety of social and cultural characteristics exist. (https://www.uh.edu/cdi/resources/student-resources/terms/)

We defined equity as: Equity: the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all employees, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and under-represented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups. (https://www.uh.edu/cdi/resources/student-resources/terms/)