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Want to Hire a Black Ph.D.?

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

Dr. Kyla McMullen just made it easier!

Brilliiant is the New Black is a bold blog post that highlights 105 Black males who are in STEM and other related fields.  The majority of the scholars who are on the list either have earned Ph.D.s or are working on their Ph.D.  The Brilliant is the New Black list is a follow-up to Dr. Kyla McMullen's highly innovative and influential "Sexy Black Female Scientists" list that was heavily shared and lauded via social media sites.  The purpose of these lists is to change the narrative on Black achievement and highlight alternative views on who scientists are.  Often, organizations lament about the dearth of Black Ph.D.s available for hire, a refrain often used to explain people of color's under representation among employees in organizations at certain levels. 

The specific challenges that people of color may face in Ph.D. programs was recently highlighted in a Huff Post Live webcast with host, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill.  Several of the scholars highlighted in the Huff Post Live interview recounted several poignant examples of their having to navigate microagressions and incivility and the challenges the experiences presented them. Research suggests that people of color may have a more challenging time in PhD programs because they are more likely to experience discrimination and stereotyping, have less access to role models who can relate to them, experience alienation, and may even suffer performance decrements due to stereotype threat (Cortina, Magley, Williams, & Langhout, 2001; Dumas, Phillips, & Rothbard, 2013; Jones, Peddie, Gilrane, King, & Gray, in press; Kunda & Spencer, 2003; Steele, 1997). In fact, a recent study found that faculty members were less likely to respond to racial minority potential PhD students' email requests for a future meeting to discuss information about applying to Ph.D. programs whereas the faculty were most likely to grant White potential Ph.D. students' email requests for future meetings to obtain information (Milkman, Akinola, & Chugh, 2012).  This important research shows an additional discriminatory barrier to Ph.D. achievement for students of color by elucidating how pre-application access channels can be deliberately blocked for people of color.

Leaders who want to develop this talent appropriately need to pay particular attention to the diversity climate within the organization and the specific department and work to breakdown these common barriers (Avery & McKay, 2006; Avery, Richeson, Hebl, & Ambady, 2009; Nishii & Mayer, 2009).  This is particularly important for careers that require advanced education due to the necessary investments and length of time needed to develop an adequate pipeline of talent.  Additionally, organizations need to make sure their human resource practices include broad and inclusive recruitment strategies that will attract and retain minority candidates (McKay et al., 2007).

Organizations who are seeking this talent would do well to take a look at these lists and make themselves familiar with the networks with which these highly intelligent, talented, and successful scholars are associated. Thank you Dr. McMullen for making it just a little bit easier.  Check out the entire list here and view the Huff Post Live webcast here

*Dr. Holmes can be reached on Twitter @OHIV.


Avery, D. R., & McKay, P. F. (2006). Target practice: An organizational impression management approach to attracting minority and female job applicants. Personnel Psychology, 59(1), 157–187.

Avery, D. R., Richeson, J. A., Hebl, M. R., & Ambady, N. (2009). It does not have to be uncomfortable: The role of behavioral scripts in Black-White interracial interactions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(6), 1382–1393.

Cortina, L. M., Magley, V. J., Williams, J. H., & Langhout, R. D. (2001). Incivility in the workplace: Incidence and impact. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 6(1), 64–80. doi:10.1037//1076-8998.6.1.64

Dumas, T. L., Phillips, K. W., & Rothbard, N. P. (2013). Getting Closer at the Company Party : Integration Experiences , Racial Dissimilarity , and Workplace Relationships, 24(5), 1377–1401.

Jones, K. P., Peddie, C. I., Gilrane, V. L., King, E. B., & Gray, A. L. (in press). Not So Subtle: A Meta-Analytic Investigation of the Correlates of Subtle and Overt Discrimination. Journal of Management. doi:10.1177/0149206313506466

Kunda, Z., & Spencer, S. J. (2003). When do stereotypes come to mind and when do they color judgment? A goal-based theoretical framework for stereotype activation and application. Psychological Bulletin, 129(4), 522–544.

McKay, P. F., Avery, D. R., Tonidandel, S., Morris, M. A., Hernandez, M., & Hebl, M. R. (2007). Racial differences in employee retention: Are diversity climate perceptions the key? Personnel Psychology, 60(1), 35–62.

Milkman, K. L., Akinola, M., & Chugh, D. (2012). Temporal distance and discrimination: an audit study in academia. Psychological Science, 23(7), 710–7. doi:10.1177/0956797611434539

 Nishii, L. H., & Mayer, D. M. (2009). Do inclusive leaders help to reduce turnover in diverse groups? The moderating role of leader-member exchange in the diversity to turnover relationship. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(6), 1412–1426.

Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, 52, 613–629.

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