By the Numbers: Diversity in faculty searches, 2016-2021

Sunday, August 21, 2022 - 11:30am

One of the suggestions Gwen Combs, UNL director of faculty diversity and inclusion,  made during her Excellence in Diversity training during our fall 2022 college retreat, was to examine diversity data related to our searches to identify any insights on improving our search process.

Between 2016 and 2021, the college conducted 29 faculty searches and made 23 hires. 

Searches by Position, 2016 to 2021

Overall, 79% of our searches since 2016 have resulted in a successful hire. All position types exceed this average, except assistant professors, where only 50% of our searches were successful. This suggests that we may need to focus on where and how we recruit applicants for assistant professor roles. In 2020, the college began expanding its participation in the CoJMC job hub and advertising more broadly with academic associations including the National Communication Association. Since 2020, our success rate in assistant professor searches has increased to 83%, with five out six searches resulting in a successful hire. 

Most of our hires, 16 out of 23, have been at the assistant rank.  

Searches and hires by year, 2016-2021

The pace of searches and faculty hiring in the college has also been increasing steadily since 2016 and our hiring success rate has been improving. In the first have of the review period, the college conducted 10 searches with 5 hires. In the second half, we conducted 19 searches with 18 hires.

Since the college is hiring more faculty with most at the assistant rank, we should focus our attention on efforts to onboard and recruit junior faculty to ensure all our new hires launch successful careers in CoJMC. 

Race and Ethnicity

The university tracks the race and ethnicity and gender of applicant pools, but does not track citizenship or residency status.

In total, 692 candidates applied to faculty positions in the college between 2016 and 2021. The combined composition of our applicant pools over the past six years has been diverse, and more diverse than the population of the state of Nebraska. However, a closer examination reveals some overrepresented and underrepresented groups within our pools. 

Applicants by Race/Ethnicity, 2016 to 2021

The data shows that we are doing a good job of recruiting Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and Two or More Race candidates. But we could improve our efforts to target Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native Candidates. (Candidates who did not disclose were not included in the chart.)

There has been variability in the diversity of our applicant pools over time. However, no clear trend towards or away from increased diversity has emerged. 

Applicants by Race/Ethnicity and Year, 2016 to 2021

We put a lot of emphasis on recruiting, as we should. But to fully understand diversity in our hiring process, it is not sufficient to examine only the applicant pool. We must also review which candidates make it to our shortlists and who is ultimately hired in our college. 

Applicants, Short-List Candidates and Hires by Race/Ethnicity, 2016 to 2021

There was a huge shift in the racial and ethnic composition between the applicant pool and the shortlists.  While 41.8% of our total applicants were racially or ethnically diverse, only 19% of our short-list candidates were diverse.

This indicates we may be unintentionally eliminating diverse candidates from consideration during the application review process.  

For the fall 2022 faculty searches, the college has requested the addition of diversity ambassadors to the search committees to help guard against bias in our processes. Additionally, we reevaluated our required qualifications to ensure our requirements were necessary for the position and as broadly tailored as possible. We also expanded the number of advertisements we posted for faculty positions and based on faculty suggestions, incorporated some new organizations targeted at diverse candidates.


Female representation in our applicant pools is slightly behind the State of Nebraska. 49.3% of Nebraska residents are female, while only 42.6% of our applicants between 2016 and 2021 were female. 

Applicants by Gender, 2016-2021

Similar to our racial diversity, gender diversity in hour applicant pools has varied, but there is no clear trend toward or away from increased representation by female candidates. 

Applicants by Gender and Year, 2016 to 2021

This indicates we could do a better job of recruiting female applicants for our faculty positions.

Our gender representation improves slightly as we move through the hiring funnel. However, female representation in our faculty hires lags behind our statewide population. 

Applicants, Short-List Candidates and Hires by Gender, 2016 to 2021

To ensure we continue to promote gender diversity in our faculty search process, we should seek ways to increase female representation in our applicants’ pools and examine our candidate evaluation process to ensure we guard against bias. 

While efforts to enhance diversity in our faculty searches are crucial, it remains imperative that the qualifications of the candidate always remain paramount in the search process.