When thinking through workplace diversity, inclusion, and accessibility, museums need to move way beyond just an inclusion statement, as potential candidates need to know that your institution is a safe place to work before they even apply. First take into account the current diversity within your organization, looking at both inherent diversity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, and class, as well as acquired diversity, such as education, experience, skills, and knowledge.
Having a range of different people from different backgrounds and skill levels has been proven to create a major impact on organizations, including a higher employee happiness and retention rate, improving innovation and creativity, and has even been shown to make an organization more profitable. The following are some tips to help ensure that your hiring practice is as accessible to all who want to apply.
In General for All Staff
- Your museum should already have established relationships with many different communities and individuals as well as organizations that serve historically marginalized communities. This will help different communities know that your museum is a safe place to work. It will also allow your organization to directly ask these networks to share your posting with their communities.
- Provide paid internship and mentorship opportunities for historically marginalized communities to encourage emerging individuals from diverse backgrounds to gain skills in the fields.
- Hold yearly anti-oppression, anti-racism, LBGTQ2+ 101, local Indigenous history and knowledge, and Disability 101 trainings for all staff
- Read Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones’ White Dominant Culture & Something Different: A Worksheet to examine and fight the organization’s norm of white dominant culture.
- Develop the institution’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action by conducting extensive consultations to implement specific plans and initiatives.
- Before adding an inclusive statement, think through if your organization actually has concrete ways that you can uphold the statement in your interview, hiring practices, and throughout a person’s employment.
- Have an inclusive statement that communicates that the organization welcomes individuals from historically marginalized communities.
- Avoid general, blanket equity statements such as, “This museum celebrates diversity and believes in creating an equal-opportunity environment.” Instead, use the statement to strongly emphasize the institution’s commitment to equity, and back this up with examples and/or a plan to follow through, e.g., “This institution is an advocate for equity and is committed to ensuring representation in its community. We welcome applications from members of BIPOC, LGBTQA2+, persons with disabilities, and others from historically marginalized communities. The institution seeks to maintain its commitment to excellence and recognizes that increasing the diversity of its faculty supports this objective.”
- Make sure that you are not directly asking candidates to self-identify themselves. Many people may not want to identify themselves because it might hurt them and you should not punish those who do not feel comfortable.
- Make sure that any PDF is accessible through a screen reader.
- Ask for candidates to not include their names to have a blind interview process. It has been proven that individuals with feminine and non-Western names are less likely to be invited for an interview.
- Offer flexibility in the workplace for the position, including working from home and adaptable work hours.
- Have the job posting open for at least 30 days.
- Make sure that the job is posted to multiple places (job sites, website, social media) in an accessible way (see blog on How to Make Your In-Person Event Accessible).
- If the pool of applicants to the posting is not large or diverse enough, extend the application deadline, or review the ad more critically for potential barriers and re-post it.
- Ask for related work experience rather than the exact number of years of experience. Be open to transferable skills. Keep in mind that in different cultures and countries, job titles can mean different things. For example: instead of “five years of experience in donor relations,” you could ask for “experience in managing client accounts, particularly in the non-profit sector.”
- Ask for ability wherever possible. Candidates can demonstrate ability through past achievements, including volunteer experience. Instead of “three years’ experience writing grants” you could ask for “ability to research grant opportunities and write clear proposals.”
- Write clearly and simply, using common words, a straightforward style and simple sentences. Avoid jargon, technical and legal language, and especially acronyms which can be mystifying to those ‘not in the know.’
- Have intersectional representation on your hiring committee.
- Before the application review begins, ask your hiring committee to take the Harvard Implicit Association Test to acknowledge the implicit bias that they may have.
- Remember this study: A Harvard Business Review found that if there is only one historically marginalized candidate, they have virtually zero change of getting hired. Meanwhile, if there is at least two Indigenous candidates, the odds of hiring an Indigenous candidate are 194 times greater.
- Provide a wide variety of options for interviews, including in-person, through video conferencing, and through a phone.
- Consider providing the interview questions ahead of time to ease people’s anxiety and give them time to prepare.
- When inviting the candidate to the interview, clearly state that the institution will respect and adhere to any accommodation needs.
- Prepare the candidate for the interview in advance with information, such as how long the interview will be, who the panel members will be and the types of questions that will be asked.
- Acknowledge at the beginning of the interview that this can be a stressful experience, and that the hiring committee will try their best to ease the candidates stress level.
- Standardize the interview process by giving the exact same questions and allowing the exact same time.
- As a part of the scoring process for candidates, take into consideration that experience is just as integral as education, acknowledging that not everyone can afford or want to enter university.
- Hiring packages should include clear inclusion and accessibility workplace guidelines.
- Rule out body language for interviews, such as eye contact and handshakes. Do not assume that a person is slouching in their seat because they do not care, or that they do not have a firm handshake because they are not confident. You do not know whether the person has a medical condition, they have different cultural norms to you, or maybe they are just nervous.
- Do not complete a criminal record check unless it is needed for a vulnerable sector check. This may turn off candidates who have a record, and could make it very difficult to get a job due to negative bias. If you have to complete a criminal record check, then inform the candidate that they have the right to see the criminal record check before the employer.
- If the interview is done in-person, use the visit to promote the institution and community. Provide candidates with a chance to have a confidential discussion with staff not directly involved in the search, who can provide information about the organization that might help envision working at the organization.
- Be mindful that the best-qualified candidates may not have the most years of experience or largest number of accomplishments. For example, an applicant who took time away from work for family-related matters may have gaps in their employment.
Regan Shrumm is a queer, genderqueer, and disabled curator, educator, and administrator. They have been working in the museum field since 2010, and have worked at such institutions as the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Museum of Northwest Arts, and the National Museum of Northwest Art. Their programming focuses on building and deepening community that is as accessible as possible for everyone.