For the third and final session in our series Diversity and Inclusivity, Kate Glazebrook shared with us her work on unconscious biases that exist during hiring practices and efforts to remove them. Kate is a Principal Advisor (Head of Growth and Equality) at the Behavioural Insights Team, a UK government institution dedicated to the application of behavioral sciences. Kate is also the co-founder of Applied, a service that incorporates leading behavioral science research to remove unconscious bias from hiring practices.
Diverse groups are important for many reasons. They have been shown to process more deeply and prepare more before considering issues. Diverse teams are also more creative, accurate, and less prone to groupthink. In essence, it’s beneficial to have people who think about things differently. Still, twice as many FTSE100 bosses are named John as there are women.
Implicit biases exist within our hiring practices that contribute to this lack of diversity. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to suggest diversity training works. In response to this, Kate shared her work with Applied to remove some of these biases, applying behavioral science research and what we know about how people make decisions and analyze information. Particularly, they have developed technology to remove bias and improve the effectiveness of hiring. It is built around five key features:
- Anonymize: remove all identifiers from candidates material that are irrelevant to job but may affect decision-making.
- Chunk: group candidate applications in signal dimensions. Horizontal review improves objectivity and decreases cognitive load on the reviewer. It is difficult for people to compare things that vary on multiple dimensions and as a default we choose options that are safer (i.e. more familiar or similar to ourselves). Additionally, when reading applications vertically, there exists a halo effect where impressions we form at the beginning affect how we assess information thereafter – a great or terrible first paragraph can disproportionately affect your chances.
- Harness crowd: aggregate input from multiple independent reviewers. Collective wisdom is better than even a singular expert. This approach also allows for having reviewers view batches of candidates responses in different orders. Kate says a team of three independent reviewers is the optimal size for a balance between accuracy in choosing the best candidate and utilizing resources.
- Test what counts: shift assessment from measures on CVs that do not reflect job success to using work sample tests and structured interviews.
- Intelligent feedback: measure what works and build on this feedback.
Kate also shared with us ways language matters during the recruitment process before applicants apply. How diversity is described matters. Saying diversity is important because of issues related to equitability increases the number of ethnic minorities applying. Saying it is important because we value differences does not, perhaps because of fears of being tokenized. Also, gendered language impacts who applies. Words like “helping” and “collaborative” increase the number of female applicants compared to words like “individual”, “drive”, or “competitive.”
Thanks, Kate, for sharing interesting insights from behavioral science research and for chatting with us. You can check out Kate’s TEDx talk here. She also mentioned this book, What Works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet, for those interested in learning more.
Our remaining winter quarter events have been scheduled for Tuesdays on Feb. 14th and March 14th from 12:00-1:00 pm in 2342 Storer Hall. We’ll also do a winter quarter happy hour at DeVere’s on Feb. 21st at 5:30 pm.
Hope to see you there!
Last month, we continued our series on Diversity and Inclusivity by having a discussion on leadership styles with Lee Bitsóí, Directory of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Rush University Medical Center. Lee joined us over skype, and discussed positive academic leadership and how it can help promote greater diversity in academia.
Most often, leaders employ a traditional style of leadership. Under traditional leadership, the leader focuses on repairing what is wrong, addressing strengths and weaknesses, and reacting to situations. While this type of leadership can be successful, the focus on negative attributes that “need fixing” may not be supportive. In contrast, positive leadership focuses on improving what is right, addressing strengths (but also recognizing weaknesses), and proactively creating healthy environments. Positive leadership can build a sense of hope and optimism, whereas traditional leadership may never achieve this goal. Lee recommended that we adopt positive style of leadership, which has a higher potential to push academia towards greater inclusivity.
One topic that especially struck me during our conversations was the difference between nurturing and coaching. Nurturing includes listening, validating and encouraging students whenever they face a challenge. In contrast, coaching acknowledges the student’s challenge, but focuses on engaging the student to actively find solutions that addresses their concerns. In academia, we are often given the chance to lead when we mentor undergraduate and graduate students. It had never occurred to me before that nurturing a student might not necessarily serve them best. Although subtly different, coaching can enable leaders and mentors to empower students to make their own proactive decisions. In the future, I will try to view my role as a postdoc more as a “coach,” and think about what tools and skills my undergraduates need to achieve their research and career goals.
Spending an hour discussing leadership skills with Lee and learning about his experiences both as a researcher and Director of Student Diversity was immensely valuable in thinking about how to create inclusive and positive environments. I have already started reflecting on my own leadership style and aspire to implement more positive leadership in my current lab and future labs.
Here is a link to some implicit bias tests that Didem mentioned in today’s WiSci session on labels. Definitely worth taking one, especially if you are teaching this quarter!
This fall, we will hold three sessions on Diversity and Inclusion with two very exciting guest speakers. While we often hear “diversity” being used at events, seminars, and articles in social media, describing what Diversity and Inclusion means is a difficult task for most academics in the life sciences. Our goal is to begin and add to a conversation that will continue as each attendee moves through their career.
- October 20: Blinded by our privileges, hurt by our labels; exploring implicit biases and how they influence our interactions
- November 10: Cross cultural dialogue and building empathy
- December 8: Removing unconscious biases when making hiring decisions