Thursday, 13 January 2011

Diversity hiring

Fortunately, we've never had diversity mandates forced on us at Canterbury. A report from the field in the US:
Even in this economy, we've had trouble recruiting minority faculty. We've made offers, but we keep losing out to places with higher salaries or lower teaching loads. Minority candidates are in much higher demand than others, so even in this market, they can command offers far sweeter than what we can muster. And faculty salaries here are determined by a pretty mechanistic collective bargaining agreement.

We've exhausted the low-hanging fruit. We advertise in venues likelier to attract minority applicants. We have racially mixed search committees. We screen job posting language carefully to ensure that nothing in them creates unnecessary barriers. The low-cost, nonconflictual stuff is already done.

Which means, in practice, that the available options are few.

One is to simply make the salary offers the contract allows, and to hope for the best. When we get turned down, turn to whomever else is available. It's legally clean, but in practice, it makes an already very white faculty that much whiter. It winds up placing a value of 'zero' on diversity, with predictable results.

Another would be to go above the grid and simply endure the grievances. If paying an extra, say, 5k will make the difference, and the Trustees have determined that the difference is worth making, then so be it. The advantage of this approach is that it stands a greater chance of actually recruiting people. The disadvantages, though, are several. For one, it virtually guarantees protracted legal battles with the union. For another, it stirs up resentments that tend to get ugly fast. And at a really basic level, it raises the question of just what, exactly, the candidate is being paid for.
Our Department is rather diverse. Judging by the flags next to our profile pictures, we've four full Kiwis, six half-Kiwis, three full Americans, one half-American, a Pole, a Canadian, two half-Canadians, a Finn, a Slovak, a half-Spaniard, three half-Brits, a Czech, a half-Frenchman, two Indians, two undisclosed (one German, one Kiwi) and some clown from Gondor. Maybe it's easier assembling an international cast if you're outside the States; the US seems committed to making it hard for foreigners getting PhDs in the states to stay there. Or maybe that's not the kind of diversity they're trying to achieve.

We're very lucky that, thus far, folks here seem to recognize that imposing quotas on departments forcing them to reflect the ethnic makeup of New Zealand would be devastating.


  1. But do you have the 'right' type of diversity? Only four out of twenty four academic staff are women and two of them are not even at the level of lecturer. Does the staff reflect the ethnic composition of New Zealand? Not at all. Ah, the impossibility of achieving diversity in a small sample.

  2. I tend to think that it's the composition of the set of qualified economists on the market that ought to form the relevant comparison group.