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Bias Awareness

Bias awareness is critical for achieving equity and diversity. One of the difficulties in effecting cultural change on the campus is our individual inability to recognize our own biases.

We strongly recommend that everyone start by visiting the Implicit Association Test designed by an international team of collaborators. We also recommend reading the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) article, “Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers,” to help understand the productivity implications of why diversity matters.

Test Your Bias

There are several useful tools that allow you to recognize your own personal biases. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report. Implicit attitudes are positive and negative evaluations that occur outside of our conscious awareness. The IAT was developed by a team of researchers at the University of Washington, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia.

The website below provides an array of tests designed to measure implicit attitudes and beliefs in a variety of areas, including race, religion, gender, sexuality, age, disability, and gender and science. We recommend that members of key committees visit the website below, take one or more of these tests, and reflect on their implications when evaluating candidates and colleagues. Each test takes about five minutes. The tests are completely free.

The Implicit Association Test

A recent meta-analysis of 122 research reports revealed that IAT scores better predict behavior than explicit self-reports (Greenwald et al, 2009).

Why Diversity Matters

We recommend reviewing the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) article, "Groups of Diverse Problem Solvers Can Outperform Groups of High-Ability Problem Solvers," as an example of why diversity contributes to overall productivity and performance.

There is also useful information at the Tutorials for Change website developed at Hunter College: Gender Schemas and Science Careers

Please explore the related articles and references listed in the Additional Resources.


Models for Mentoring

Types of Mentoring Relationships

One-on-One Mentoring

  • The mentor has more experience, and directly guides, and teaches behavior.
  • A mentor is knowledgeable about the junior faculty member’s department and reviews the activities and career trajectory of the junior faculty mentee.
  • The mentor provides critical feedback and direct guidance during the years preceding tenure and promotion reviews.
  • Mentor provides personal council regarding issues that junior faculty may feel hesitant to discuss in group settings.1

Group Mentoring

  • One or a small number of mentors with a medium group of mentees.
  • Benefits multiple individuals simultaneously.
  • Mentoring sessions are led by one or several senior faculty members in the format of a community conversation.
    •  General topics that can be discussed include but are not limited to:
      • Guidelines on promotion and tenure
      • Curriculum enhancement
      • Assessments of teaching and instruction
      • Time management2

Peer Advising

  • Mutual relationships between individuals of the same career level.
  • All members give and receive support.
  • Everyone simultaneously benefits from the relationship and learns how to be a faculty mentor.3
  • Offer support to one another in the following areas:
    • Guidance in the preparation of annual departmental reports.
    • Disseminating information about funding opportunities, awards, and institutional policies pertaining to junior faculty.
    • Sharing progress.
    • Provide experiential support and guidance regarding the professional skills that must be demonstrated for tenure and promotion.

Traditional vs. Alternative Mentoring Models

Traditional Mentoring Model

In the sciences and engineering, the mentoring of both younger men and women generally is based on a cultural style more suited to male socialization that entails:

  • Informational and technical conversation.
  • A predominantly instrumental approach to education, contrasted with an affective orientation.
  • Focus on challenging the mentee, posing tasks in order to increase stress tolerance and independence, and potentially identifying those who cannot rise to the challenge.

*The traditional mentoring model that emphasizes technical and instrumental issues is often well suited to the needs of traditionally socialized men in these fields. It does not necessarily accommodate an affinity towards integration and other paradigms of nurturing in which most women are socialized.4

Alternative Mentoring Models

Multiple Mentoring

  • Distributed mentorship - Junior faculty are encouraged to construct a mentoring community based on a diversified support group instead of relying on a single mentor.
  • By having a team of mentors, each mentor supplements the relative strengths of the other mentors, including access to a particular network.

*Multiple mentoring helps mentees cultivate relationships internally and externally and helps to reduce competition-laden hierarchal relationships that often stymie the progress of historically underrepresented groups in STEM.5

Peer Mentoring

  • Builds community and de-emphasizes seniority and hierarchy.
  • Encourages support across boundaries and disciplines.
  • Flexibility and informality of relationships that enable women to phase in and phase out.

*This flexibility in time and level of commitment in peer mentoring relationships addresses problems women often experience with the traditional mentoring model (e.g. family and child-care responsibilities and career interruptions).6

Collective Mentoring

  • Senior colleagues and the department take the lead in constructing and maintaining a mentoring team.
  • Mentoring is neither a one-on-one activity nor one designed solely by the junior faculty member.

*Sends a departmental and institutional message that the progress of historically underrepresented faculty is a priority and creates a departmental climate that removes the obstacles to effective mentoring, performance, retention, and advancement of historically underrepresented STEM faculty.7

Suggestions for Pairing Mentors and Mentees

Gender and Race Considerations

Cross-race and cross-gender relationships have benefits for minority and women faculty. However, differences in gender and culture can limit the positive outgrowth of mentoring relationships if the majority of mentor(s) are not sensitive to these differences and specific challenges and how they mediate the lived experiences of their mentees in academe.8 In the literature, there is notable discussion about the impact that gender and race have on mentoring. Ragins' (1997) framework on diverse mentoring relationships posits that the demographic constitution of a mentoring relationship affects the nature of assistance provided by the mentor(s).

Other researchers have found that female mentees who are historically represented in STEM fields experience greater levels of comfort and psychosocial support from female mentors than from male mentors.9

Several challenges exist for women and faculty of color. They tend to have fewer opportunities to establish contact with potential mentors because of a lack of access to informal information networks. Perceptions exist that women and faculty of color earn positions and promotions not because of their abilities and achievements, but because of a quota system. In addition, negative stereotypes and attitudes about women in leadership positions can influence how mentors view them. Additionally, women’s socialization to downplay their successes may discourage mentors from taking them on as mentees.10

Specific challenges for women and faculty of color:

  • Pigeonholed/stereotyped.
  • Unusual demands for service on committees and mentoring of historically underrepresented students may impact productivity.
  • Sense of heightened responsibility as a visible minority.
  • Childcare responsibilities.
  • Reluctance to seek out mentors out of fear that may be seen as too dependent.

Create Expectations and Incentives for Mentoring at the Department Level11

  • Give awards and departmental recognition to senior faculty mentors (e.g. increase graduate assistance support, increases in pay, seeding resources for grants and projects, reduce teaching load, provide sabbatical time as compensation). 
  • Institute junior faculty mentoring as an important aspect of service and performance criteria in reviews and evaluations of senior faculty, academic program administrators, and department heads.

  1. Dalox, 1987; Evans, 1995.
  2. Roth, 2000; Seibert, 1999.
  3. Mayer et al, 2008.
  4. Broome, 1996, Broome, 1997; Baum, 1995; Chesler and Chesler, 2002; Seymor, 1995.
  5. Chesler and Chesler, 2002; Chandler, 1996; Etkowitz, Kemelgor, and Uzzi, 2000.
  6. Chesler and Chesler, 2002; Chandler, 1996; Limbert, 1995.
  7. Chesler and Chesler, 2002; Seymour and Hewitt, 1997.
  8. Boice, 1992; Welch, 1997; Tilman, 2001.
  9. Allen, Day, and Lentz; 2005, Ensher and Murphy, 1997, Fox and Fonesca, 2006; Kark and Shilo-Dubnov, 2007; Lookwood, 2006.
  10. Cleveland, Stockdale, and Murphy, 2000.
  11. Adapted from “Suggested topics of Discussion for Mentor/Mentee Pairs,” NYU Steinhardt, 2013.

How to be a good mentor

  • The relationship should be focused on knowledge acquirement and achievement in a mutually beneficial manner. This may include collaborating with your mentee on research projects. Be direct about organizations they should be involved in, journals in which they should aim to publish, and projects that will be helpful to them before they are reviewed for tenure.
  • Offer direct hands-on assistance and be a good role model for the mentee. Let junior faculty mentors know that you are approachable. Encourage junior faculty to be inquisitive and proactive about making connections.
  • The relationship should be honest. Clarify expectations about areas in which you are able to offer guidance. Critique as well as encourage. Present criticism constructively in a private manner where the focus of the conversation is on improvement.
  • Make sure junior faculty are aware of specific rules and policies. Provide detailed information about how to navigate departmental and institutional culture.
  • Allow your mentee to talk openly. Encourage them to take ownership of their process. Be open to learning what may be issues with the current system that need to be changed for the benefit of all current and future junior faculty.
  • Perform cyclical evaluations of the usefulness of the mentoring relationship.

Practical Tips for Application

  • Be sure that your mentee knows how to contact you (e.g., email, telephone, fax, etc.). Request contact information from your mentee.
  • Familiarize yourself with promotion/tenure policies.
  • Invite your mentee(s) to a meeting; suggest potential topics. Agree on confidentiality and no-fault termination.
  • Discuss your expectations and needs with your mentee(s).
  • Work with your mentee(s) on yearly goals for the relationship (meeting times, etc.). Plan to meet at least quarterly with your mentee.
  • To chart success, help your mentee(s) develop a checklist.

*Note: Adapted from “Giving and Getting Career Advice: A guide for Junior and Senior Faculty” by Pamela J. Smock and Robin Stephenson, 2009, ADVANCE University of Michigan, p. 1-14.

Tips for Mentees

Scholarship suggests that individuals who demonstrate drive and are active in seeking mentoring relationships are more likely to receive mentorship. Mentoring is a process that has to be actively sought after and cultivated with a deliberate effort.1

Before Seeking a Mentor: Perform a Self-Assessment

  1. Establish a rubric for your decision-making process.
    • What is your mission? What are your goals?
  2. Establish your short-term (1-5 years) and long-term (5-10 years) personal and professional goals.
  3. List your strengths and weaknesses (i.e. areas for improvement).
    • What activities do you find relatively easy and energize you?
    • What do you find difficult to accomplish?
  4. Construct a mentoring needs assessment.
    • What do you want from a mentor-mentee relationship
    • What are some preliminary ideas that you have about projects to work on with a mentor?
  5. Make a list of individuals who have the knowledge and skills that you wish to acquire and search broadly.
    • Don’t limit your search for mentors to your own institutions. Find other senior faculty in your research area at other institutions. Approach your prospective mentor with specific desires. If the prospective mentor is not at your institution, request to talk or meet with him/her virtually.2

Fostering a Relationship with Your New Mentor

Research suggests a manage-up approach to mentoring where junior faculty are self-motivated and aware, taking responsibility for the relationship by learning both their needs and limitations and that of their mentors. Take initiative and establish meeting schedules, determine how progress will be defined, and individual responsibilities.3

1. Jackson et al., 2003; Ramanan et al., 2002; Zerzan et al., 2009.

2. Farell et al., 2002.

3. Zerzan et al., 2009; Poley and Knight, 2005; Sands et al., 1991; Boyle and Boyce, 1998; Sorcinelli and Yun, 2007.

Suggestions of Topics


  • The organizational structure of the department. Processes by which decisions are made and opportunities for involvement.
  • Availabilities and allotments of resources for supplies and other research and teaching expenses. Support staff availability and expectations.

Research and Resources

  • Importance of grants and how much effort should be invested in obtaining research funding.
  • Departmental expectations of percent of your salary to be supported by external grant funding.
  • Expected percentages of cost sharing on grants. For laboratory space, the expectation of the amount of indirect funds recovery per square foot of occupied laboratory space.
  • Departmental assessment of shared cost for use of common equipment in its service contracts.
  • Relevant conferences to attend and travel support.
  • Authorship etiquette on collaborative efforts, expectations, and policies regarding publishing.
  • Budgets for research and overall resources available to faculty members.
  • Perceived and self-identified research niche that faculty member contributes to the department.
  • Expectations/policies and opportunities for research presentations in the department by a junior faculty member or their graduate students.
  • The culture of collaboration on research in the department and the institution as a whole.


  • Nature of teaching requirements and instructional environment.
  • Expectations and policies regarding construction and contents of teaching portfolios for the tenure review process.
  • Support and guidance on teaching preparation.

Student Supervision

  • Expectations regarding supervision of graduate and undergraduate students. What to expect from students, how to identify and recruit students with whom to collaborate, and what to keep in student files for recommendation writing purposes.
  • Serving on a student/dissertation committee and qualifications for becoming a Ph.D. advisor.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of hiring post-doctoral associates.
  • Pay scales for graduate students and doctoral students.


  • Policies, expectations, and advice for service on committees within the department and the university at large.
  • Opportunities and advice on professional service outside of the university (e.g. How much paper and proposal reviewing is reasonable? Review boards? Journal editorships? Should you organize a national event?).

Review Process

  • Length of appointment, process, and timetable for review (third year and tenure) and results (e.g., what do you submit, how reviewers are selected, advice and criteria for selecting reviewers if you are responsible for submitting your own list of outside reviewers).
  • Important information to include on your vita.
  • Policies for determinations of school and departmental raises. Procedures for discussing desired pay increases and soliciting formal or informal feedback during your pre-tenure career.

Personal Issues

  • University and departmental policies and procedures for asking for and receiving family and personal leave.
  • Childcare assistance.
  • Expectations for day-to-day visibility in the department.
  • Official procedures and resources for sexual harassment, conflict resolution, and counseling.

Adapted from “Suggested topics of Discussion for Mentor/Mentee Pairs” (NYU Steinhardt, 2013)

Hiring and Retention

There is extensive literature showing that even when people have the best intentions, bias and stereotypes affect our evaluation of job candidates. Some of the issues are provided in this summary of common issues with hiring and stereotypes. Educating hiring committees about these biases is imperative, and they should be aware of the recommended hiring best practices.

There are also potential differences in recruiting, and we suggest making sure representatives from groups that have historically been underrepresented get a chance to talk to others that are like them. If there are not enough people in the hiring unit, consider looking a little more broadly for people to discuss the climate at Georgia Tech.

Hiring and Stereotyping: Risk Factors

Empirically-Based Risk Factors for Stereotyping Applicants and Hiring Implications

  • Cognitive overburden from distractions, tiredness, and/or in time-pressured situations encourages reliance on mental shortcuts and heuristics, such as stereotypes.
    • Faculty on search committees must review and sort through many applications, which contain a wealth of information, and make determinations (e.g., number and quality of publications, order of authorship, departmental fit, letters of recommendation which are subject to bias, etc.).
    • Faculty on search committees are balancing a multitude of other responsibilities.
    • Search committees are asked to make complex decisions in a short time frame.
  • Evaluation criteria are ambiguous. This relates to making hiring procedures as objective, explicit, and transparent as possible. Subjective criteria allow bias to be hidden because the standard by which evaluations are made is unclear.
  • Limited information on which hiring decisions are based (e.g., vita, applications, work samples, job interviews which are subject to “impression management”), and limitations of supporting material that are subject to gender and race stereotypes.
  • When members of stereotyped groups are rare in an organization (when there are few women or people of color, their gender, race/ethnicity is more salient and more likely to activate stereotypes than when organizations are more diverse).
  • Gender and race become more salient when women or people of color move into occupations previously dominated by non-stereotyped groups.
  • Individuals face greater discrimination when traits stereotypic of their group conflict with traits stereotypic of the job they hold or to which they are applying.

Hiring Best Practices

Best Practices for Search Committees

  • Talk to the committee about being conscious of assumptions and biases.
  • Committee members may review and take tests at the following site to assess for implicit bias:
  • Develop clear selection criteria in advance (e.g., research ability, references, ability to interact with colleagues). Note that neither age nor personal circumstances are appropriate criteria.
  • Make evaluation criteria explicit. Design organized evaluations and use a Candidate Evaluation Tool.
  • Spend considerable time and attention on applications to evaluate candidates fairly and adequately.
  • Ensure that criteria are applied consistently for all candidates.
  • Guard against the “moving target” syndrome: changing the requirements as the search proceeds in order to include or exclude particular candidates.
  • Research and review acceptable and unacceptable interview questions. Visit the appendix found here for sample interview questions. 
  • Critically analyze supporting materials. Know that supporting materials, such as letters of recommendation, are subject to race and gender stereotypes. Teaching evaluations are also subject to gender bias.
  • Develop a consistent process for checking references.
  • Include all search committee members in the evaluation process.
  • Ensure consistency between attributes of candidates being recruited and faculty’s “shared” vision.


Transparency of all processes, including promotion and tenure, is critical for promoting diversity and equity. It is imperative for a diverse community that all regulations are made explicit and are easily accessible on websites and communicated through other means. The starting point for basic information about the promotion and tenure process, committee formation, and other basic operations is spelled out in the faculty handbook.

In addition, all colleges and most units are required to have their own versions of the faculty handbook that explain the rules dictated at these levels. All schools and colleges should have explicit guidelines for the promotion and tenure process and timelines, leave policies, and service and teaching expectations.  Moreover, it is recommended that all of this information should be relayed to junior faculty on multiple occasions, through presentations, and meetings with chairs and mentors to insure equal access to school policies.

The ADVANCE Program professors will continue working with the Deans and School Chairs to provide open information about School operations, such as committee assignments, buyout policies, and leave policy (e.g., medical, faculty development leave, active service/modified duties).

The desired outcomes outlined in the EDEI include:

  • All faculty are aware of the RP&T procedures in their units.
  • Guidelines within Schools or Colleges regarding professional/medical leaves articulated to faculty.
  • Information about committee assignments and rules for formation is available.

Promotion and Tenure

In 2003, Georgia Tech's ADVANCE Program sponsored a committee of faculty to undergo a detailed examination of bias in the promotion and tenure process, here and elsewhere. The outcomes of the Promotion and Tenure ADVANCE Committee (PTAC) included:

We strongly recommend that all members of promotion and tenure committees review this report. PTAC also produced an ADEPT interactive tool to provide candidates and evaluators insight into how bias can enter the RP&T process.

PTAC Outcomes

Additional Resources

PTAC also produced an ADEPT interactive tool to provide candidates and evaluators insight into how bias can enter the RP&T process.