The Hiring Game: Invisible and Visible Diversity in the Assessment of Engineers' Professional Skills

Nikitha Sambamurthy, Purdue University

Abstract

Reducing bias during the engineering hiring process can contribute to increased diversity in the engineering workforce. Diversity leads to creative solutions by allowing for a variety of backgrounds and experiences to influence decision-making processes, which in turn helps creates solutions for a broader spectrum of people. Thus, diversity is key to the continuation of creative engineering solutions. Despite numerous initiatives at the national, institutional, and professional levels to promote and include diverse populations in engineering, the number of women and underrepresented minorities in the science and engineering workforce remains low. Women are only 28% of science and engineering jobs, while Latinos, African-Americans, and American Indians comprise 10% of the science and engineering workforce in total. It is therefore worthwhile to consider bias in engineering hiring as a barrier to diversity in engineering industry. ^ Although numerous studies have verified the influence of visible diversity traits (such a race and gender) on hiring outcomes, few have explored the role of invisible diversity traits (such as personality) on hiring outcomes. This study investigates the role of both visible and invisible diversity traits in the outcomes of a recent trend in engineering hiring processes: the use of team-building games to assess engineers professional skills. Engineering companies have employed the use of team-building games to observe how potential employees exhibit professional skills such as leadership and communication in more authentic settings (i.e., scenarios that cannot be prepared for); however, the methods of assessing professional skills in these games are subject to bias due to (1) vague definitions of behaviors to observe and (2) lack of reliability of scores among evaluators. This study utilizes content analysis of surveys and interviews with industry experts, observational analysis of student performances in team-building games, and statistical analyses of rubric scores to fulfill the following research objective and research question: (1) Develop a robust, valid, and reliable rubric for the assessment of engineers professional skills in the context of team-building games and (2) What types of bias may be introduced through the use of games in the engineering hiring process? Results confirm differences in personality, gender, and student type (domestic or international) correlate with rubric outcomes, and indicate that the use of objective, reliable rubrics in scoring potential employees' performances may mitigate bias in evaluating certain professional skills in games.^

Degree

Ph.D.

Advisors

Monica F. Cox, Purdue University, Joyce Main, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education|Engineering

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