The most (and least) effective ways to use diversity statements in faculty searches

Expert Insight

The most (and least) effective ways to use diversity statements in faculty searches

The typical faculty job application allows candidates to demonstrate strengths in research and teaching, but offers little opportunity to showcase dedication to departmental and institutional strategic goals such as diversity and inclusion.

As a remedy, institutions are increasingly requiring diversity statements as part of the academic job application. Unfortunately, most calls for diversity statements are unrelated to the department’s agenda and the evaluation criteria are unclear.

Ineffective Practice 1: Requiring broad statements of diversity without evaluation criteria

More on this topic

This resource is part of the Increase Faculty Diversity and Inclusivity on Campus Roadmap. Access the Roadmap for stepwise guidance with additional tools and research.

12%

More URM candidates than previous year's searches at UCRiverside
More URM candidates than previous year’s searches at UCRiverside

Without connecting the value of increasing faculty diversity and inclusion to the department’s research, teaching, and service priorities, the intention of diversity statement requirements is often unclear to faculty and applicants. Instead, use concrete criteria linked to candidate interests and departmental needs.

Rather than relying on a vague commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion, the first thing that search committees can do is identify concrete criteria in research, teaching or outreach that are clearly linked to departmental and institutional priorities. Is the department seeking candidates with expertise in inclusive pedagogy? Candidates with experience working with or mentoring underserved or minority undergraduate students? Or maybe expanding public health access to low-income neighborhoods? An expert in designing economic models that alleviate poverty?

Solution: This approach will ensure both that you are attracting candidates that are committed to diversity and inclusion and providing the search committee with a way to evaluate the statements. Further, it will help the search committee communicate departmental priorities in the job ad.

Ineffective Practice 2: Waiting to review diversity statements until the end of the review process

33%

More female candidates in the pool after new process introduced at UCRiverside
More female candidates in the pool after new process introduced at UCRiverside

A well-crafted prompt with concrete evaluation criteria is just the first step and won’t truly impact the short list unless faculty leverage it at the right time. Most often, search committees use diversity statements as “tie breakers” between two or three top candidates at the end of a search. But this is too late in the process to have an impact on the diversity of the candidate pool or inform the selection of a diverse short list. Instead, review diversity statements at the beginning of the evaluation process to increase the likelihood that underrepresented candidates make it further in the search.

Faculty in the University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering, reordered the candidate review process to allocate more weight to the diversity statement. They now assess it in concert with the research record and CV allowing them to better identify candidates with a demonstrated a commitment to diversity and also see more underrepresented candidates persisting further in the review process.

Solution: If you want to see a more diverse and inclusive short list, tie diversity statements to strategic priorities in departments and evaluate the statements early in the review process.

How equity and inclusion guide faculty recruitment and retention

This study will help academic leaders approach diversity and inclusion not merely as an idea, but as the result of more equitable and intentional practices under their direct control. Download the study.

More resources on faculty diversity

While the student body of college campuses has diversified over the last decades, the demographics of the faculty have largely remained unchanged. And even in fields which have diversified, candidates from historically underrepresented groups (URG) are less likely to hold leadership positions and higher ranks.

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