Soon after Sonia Anand, Senior Scientist at PHRI, was named Associate Chair, Equity and Diversity, Department of Medicine, McMaster University, she was approached by her professorial colleague Will Harper about an innovative approach to minimize bias and maximize diversity. He suggested using ‘game theory’ (framework for decision-making on independent, competing persons in a strategic setting).
“I had to think about [Will’s suggestion] long and hard,” Sonia says. “I had recently taken on this role, observing we had no women in leadership positions in our department. Part of my mandate was to increase the number of women on the selection committee and the number of women applying for positions.”
In her role, equity, diversity and inclusion (known as ‘EDI’) has now grown beyond gender equity when it comes to hiring and promoting medical faculty, to include ethnicity/race, sexual orientation, and disability.
“It’s not that there isn’t merit considered in our hiring processes, it’s just that people assume you are making a rational decision,” Sonia notes. “But it’s really hard to tell the differences” between candidates so a scientific process, involving randomization, is explored with the game theory.
“Our pilot testing [in the department of medicine] has gone very well,” says Sonia. “It has shown that we can minimize bias and end up picking meritorious candidates.” She and Will go into the subject deeper when interviewed by Women as One podcast channel, “This is How We Do It.”