Damani White-Lewis shares insights into postdoctoral hiring inequities

August 18, 2023

A recent study has found that many researchers of color are at a disadvantage when applying for postdoctoral positions. Penn GSE Assistant Professor Damani White-Lewis told Science the study was both “very important” and “very needed.”

The study by researchers at UC Davis, published last month in Social Science Research, looked at more than 22,000 applications for 769 scientific postdoc positions at nine U.S. universities from 2013 to 2021. It analyzed the hiring process and found that Asian applicants and Black, Latino, or Native American (BLNA) men were least likely to be seriously considered for the role. BLNA women were most likely to be interviewed for the position, but least likely to receive a job offer.

The disparity may be attributed to structural inequities in the hiring process.

“Inequities … compound over time,” White-Lewis, a researcher of inequity in faculty careers, said. “That, of course, should make us concerned.”

The study raised concerns about postdoctoral hiring practices, as the decisions are largely subject to the bias of the individual principal investigators.

White-Lewis said there needs to be a change, but institutions “need to make sure that they’re still preserving some of the features that make postdoctoral hiring what it is.” He said the postdoc hiring market is unique because “you need someone more quickly.”

He proposed addressing the issue by increasing network connections across universities to create “strong bonds” for minorities.

Read more about the study, postdoctoral hiring processes, and White-Lewis’ thoughts in Science.