Crafting a Diversity Statement
Many graduate students preparing for career entry understand the importance of a well-crafted teaching philosophy or research statement. In last week’s Grad15 mini-webinar, Graduate Student Support Resources director Amanda Athey shared some tips and strategies on creating another piece in your job-hunting arsenal: the diversity statement.
Diversity statements are a relatively new phenomenon. They are commonly associated with job advertisements for faculty positions in higher education. However, one might also come across them for administrative positions in higher education, positions at non-profits, and within government or corporate hiring sectors.
Why do institutions or organizations ask for a diversity statement?
Coming across a position requesting a diversity statement is a good indication that the hiring party is committed to and recognizes the importance of inclusion and equity. A diverse workforce correlates to increased team creativity, productivity and problem-solving. Within higher education, recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented communities hinges upon having a diverse and culturally-competent faculty and staff.
Even if a hiring committee does not specifically ask for a diversity statement as part of the application process, applicants should expect to be asked some questions about their engagement with equity, inclusion, diversity and belonging when they reach the interview phase of a job search.
There is no single best model for developing your own diversity statement, just as there is no single way to craft a personal statement or cover letter -- these are highly individualized items. Karla Morales, Director of the Office for Multicultural Advancement with the University of Arizona, offers examples for use within academia.
In considering your own statement (or preparing your own thoughts on diversity and inclusion for interview talking points), we suggest three steps for developing one that responds to the position and hiring organization.
Step 1: Create a template based on your personal understanding and awareness of diversity.
Make sure to dedicate some time to reflecting on your views. This diversity statement guide from Utica College, provides some good prompts:
- How do you handle diverse perspectives and abilities in the classroom?
- How have you encouraged students to engage with diversity outside of the classroom?
- How have you supported fellow faculty/staff/students in their own contributions to or struggles with diversity?
- How do you address issues of diversity and equity in your research and writing?
- Does your topic inherently relate to social justice or improving access among underrepresented groups; you are developing a technology, system, or process that can be used to benefit such groups in the future.
- How do you create an environment of inclusion in your lab and among your colleagues?
- How have you incorporated diversity into the classroom and how is that approach unique?
Step 2: Research diversity at the hiring organization.
Try to research the organization. Who do they hire? Who do they serve? What kinds of diversity committees or structures do they have in place? Your research might include perusal of the organization’s website and social media (including LinkedIn profiles for members of their leadership teams), or connecting with their current (or past) employees.
Step 3: Customize your template to reflect what is sought from that hiring organization.
Thread together your personal reflections with the hiring organization’s goals to create a statement that addresses the particular contributions that you can make to that organization or institution.
It is important to decide for yourself how much personal information you want to share. There are pros and cons to doing so. This article by the Harvard Business Review briefly articulates some. If you decide to disclose detailed demographic information about your background, remember that context is the key. Make sure to frame it in terms of your personal engagement with or your understanding of diversity. Most institutions will be seeking candidates who demonstrate their commitment to being inclusive, regardless of personal background.