- The American Economic Association (AEA) announced it would end the practice of holding hotel room interviews with job seekers at its annual conference. The rule change is part of an effort to end what former Federal Reserve Chairman and current AEA president Ben Bernanke previously called the profession's "reputation for hostility toward women and minorities," The Wall Street Journal reported.
- During the annual conference, economic researchers present studies, while government agencies, universities and other organizations interview potential hires. "It was not unusual when I was a job-market candidate to walk into a hotel room and see a roomful of men, and be invited to sit on the bed for a job interview," Jessica Holmes, an economics professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, told the Journal. "Many people always recognized it was strange, but it's finally changing."
- The rule change is but one way the association aims to make economics more welcoming to groups other than the white men who dominate the profession, the Journal reported. Citing its coverage of a 2017 study by the Fed, the Journal said that only about 30% of undergraduate-level economics majors are women, compared with 58% of all undergraduates, and that just 12% are minority-members, who make up 21% all students.
The AEA's move points to the complex — and often ingrained — nature of diversity obstacles. An overwhelming number of employers (98%) invest in diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives, according to a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report. But the study results found that the people these programs are designed to help aren't always reaping the benefits; men ages 45 and older are both the major decision-makers in their organizations and among the bigger obstacles to D&I efforts, as they tend to underestimate the barriers in place for women and minority employees.
An AEA survey released earlier this year, as reported by the Journal, found that two-thirds of female economists said their work wasn't taken as seriously as their male colleagues, who they claimed sometimes excluded or disrespected them.
The threat of discrimination is always possible, but employers can lower their risk of liability by enforcing zero-tolerance policies and creating a culture of fairness and inclusion focused on civility and respect. A diverse candidate slate can help employers lower the risk of a reverse discrimination claim, which can emerge when a white male employee, for example, believes he's being discriminated against in favor of workers from a protected class. In 2018, for example, a judge allowed the case of a white man who claimed he was discriminated against in favor of Indian employees to advance.
Experts have outlined five steps HR can take to improve diversity hiring efforts:
- Establish diversity goals.
- Broaden the range of candidate sources when old ones aren't yielding results, such as professional associations for women, African Americans, Asians and other groups.
- Look out for signs of bias.
- Assess the company's brand to determine its culture.
- Update the interview process to reflect the interviewee's perspective.