From September 8-10, 2022, the National Catholic Studies Consortium held its second annual symposium at…
Be sure to outline your terms, detail your experience, and outline your future plans.
I will be entering the academic job market for the first time in September and expect to be required to write diversity statements as part of my applications. Although I can find good examples of teaching and research statements, my department does not have many sample diversity statements. How to write this document? Do you have any examples to share?
– Anonymous, Biochemistry
Response from Dr. Editor:
I can’t share examples of EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion) statements I’ve edited, but there are plenty online, collected by UPenn, UCSD, and UGA, for example; there is also an excellent analysis of 39 diversity statements by Ching-Yune Sylvester et al (2019), which contains sample sentences from a range of job candidate documents. The EDI statements I’ve edited tend to follow the same general structure, which I’m happy to recommend:
1. Define your terms
What are your values regarding your understanding of the terms equity, diversity and inclusion? What do these concepts mean, especially in the context of your discipline? Show that you know “to what extent [people from specific demographic] groups are underrepresented in a given field, and/or their degree of underrepresentation at particular levels or ranks (graduate student, assistant professor, etc.)” (Brandeis, nd).
It may be appropriate to describe how you came to the understanding you hold, whether from lived experience or by engaging in professional development. As I recommend with the teaching statement, I like to see people rely on the research literature at this point, to show that you are aware of the EDI conversations in your field. As with all scholarly writing, your paper here is in conversation with the work of others. Show that you are aware of these conversations. This recognizes that EDI work in the academy is worklike any other form of research.
You can also hypothesize about the level of understanding your readers will bring to your diversity statement: don’t care about diversity on diversity statements. So don’t bother writing a statement aimed at faculty members who don’t care about diversity. Write one for faculty members who will take the time to read your statement carefully” (Golash-Boza, 2016).
If you wish to disclose visible or invisible aspects of your identity, you can choose to identify yourself as belonging to particular underrepresented groups in your field, or you can provide your location. Your positioning is the social and political context that shapes your identity and perspective on the world. Unfortunately, you’ll have to balance any incentive to identify yourself against the very real concerns that your identity might work against you. In 2015, Karen Schmaling et al found that only 24% of 191 job applicants disclosed aspects of their identity in their diversity statements – so don’t think you have to disclose, or that disclosure is the norm.
And while you need to know how your own perspective shapes your approach to diversity and inclusion, this document is generally not a space for storytelling. If you bring your own personal experiences, do so “with the aim of connecting them to your commitment to diversity in research, teaching and service” (Reyes 2018).
If you’re new to thinking about EDI and haven’t thought about how multiple overlapping systems of privilege or oppression can shape your perspective, consider getting some training. One option is eCampusOntario’s open-access guide Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA), which has a section on positionality and intersectionality.
2. Detail your experience
In the second and longest section of your diversity statement, you will want to provide examples that demonstrate your commitment to fostering an inclusive classroom, workplace, and campus.
Many scholars focus on undergraduate education, but you’ll also want to describe what you’ve done to support graduate students, postdocs, staff, and junior colleagues who belong to underrepresented demographics in your field. :
- How do you ensure your lab is an inclusive environment?
- What have you done in service and research that has supported equity and diversity?
- Do you do anti-racist academic work? If so, what forms did it take?
- How have you addressed structural barriers or advocated for system change?
Examine the broader contexts of your campus and disciplinary area, and describe the steps you have taken to support people from underrepresented and equity-deserving groups, and to dismantle systemic barriers to access and inclusion.
If you have not engaged in anti-racism services or research, think deeply about why you have not engaged in these activities and what blind spots you may have due to your lack of engagement. As Pardis Mahdavi and Scott Brooks have noted, it is not enough to say that you have not been able to pursue anti-oppressive research, teaching, or service because of your status in the institution, because it “obfuscates the roles that all teachers [and instructors] play in maintaining the status quo and contribute in small and significant ways to discriminatory practices and negative outcomes for faculty, staff, and students of color” (2021).
3. Describe your future plans
This is where you will do the most personalization for each application you submit. Consider the mission, vision, and values of the institution you wish to join, as well as any knowledge you have of its students, staff, and faculty. How will you work to continue advancing their pursuit of inclusive excellence?
Again, don’t just focus on the classroom: outline your plans for all of your research, teaching, and service. Name specific groups or committees you would like to join and describe how you will contribute. The strongest plans show how research, teaching and services are integrated and mutually supportive.