The purpose of this guide is to provide a foundation for thinking about your own diversity statement(s). This guide is general and does not provide discipline- or position-specific guidance.
The Center for Career Development offers one-on-one appointments to review and discuss your diversity statement. We also encourage you to reach out to recent faculty hires in your department or discipline to discuss their diversity statements as they are most likely to have good examples of what committees may find compelling.
What is a diversity statement and what is its purpose?
In recent years, many colleges and universities started prioritizing diversifying their faculty, staff and student bodies. Institutions are interested in hiring faculty with lived experiences, competencies, or insights that can foster an inclusive environment. Your diversity statement is the first way a committee will assess your ability to navigate these topics.
A diversity statement outlines how a candidate will contribute to an institution's approach to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). It's an opportunity for you to highlight the ways you would advance an institution's DEI work. It's also a chance for you to discuss your understanding of the varied experiences of people from minoritized and/or underrepresented groups. You can also outline your lived experiences or your experiences meeting the needs of a diverse group during your graduate training and beyond. It is also appropriate to outline a vision of how you, as a faculty member, would make contributions to DEI in the future.
Your statement will likely have at least some of these elements:
- A statement of your perspective or values: Articulate your understanding of DEI within higher education
- Personal examples or experience: Provide evidence of your commitment to DEI by describing what you've done in the past
- Future plans: Explain what you will do as a faculty member to advance DEI
What topics might I cover?
Diversity statements vary widely in terms of what people choose to highlight depending on their own identities, experiences and backgrounds. You should include content that you think addresses how you have approached diversity in the past or may approach it in your new position. The following list is intended to serve as a starting point and is not exhaustive.
As with any piece of writing, it's helpful for a reader if you provide a framework. To orient your reader, you may want to discuss difficulties people from certain backgrounds face in your field.
You may also want to discuss your lived experiences navigating some of those very difficulties. However, for legal, personal or political reasons, you may choose not to include information about your identity. Either approach is fine.
If you are conducting research that focuses on people of diverse backgrounds or that offers theoretical or practical insights into underserved groups, be sure to highlight that in your diversity statement. It should also appear in your research statement.
You could also discuss ways you are going to support students of diverse backgrounds who may work with you as research assistants or thesis students.
If you have teaching experience, you may consider discussing how you incorporate DEI in your courses. For example, you could discuss inclusive teaching practices or how you have approached teaching diverse groups.
Mentorship is another form of teaching, so if you have experience working with students from minoritized or under-represented backgrounds, you can also highlight that.
It is also acceptable to generate ideas about how you would approach teaching as a new faculty member through the lens of DEI. Topics you include in your diversity statement related to teaching should complement what you talk about in your teaching statement.
If you hold positions within your department, on campus, or your professional associations related to DEI, you can discuss how those will shape your approach as a faculty member.
You can also discuss any outreach you may do in the community, especially related to marginalized groups.
Writing a diversity statement is like writing other academic job materials (e.g., teaching or research statements). Because of that, many of the steps for a successful diversity statement are similar to other documents.
It may seem obvious, but ask yourself, “What do I mean by DEI? What does the institution mean?” These questions are critical to writing a coherent statement.
Using the topics listed above, you can also ask yourself more specific questions related to your ideas about diversity. Beck (2018) provides a useful list of questions you may want to consider as writing prompts.
Consider your audience
As with most writing, you are creating your diversity statement for someone to read. Keep this audience in mind as you craft your document.
Your statement will be read by a committee of faculty members, but the exact composition will vary depending on the type of institution you're applying to. Consider what faculty will want to or expect to see in your statement (see topics above).
Select your examples
Diversity statements are typically only about a page long. You may have a range of experiences you would like to discuss or cover. Be thoughtful about which examples you choose.
Each example you choose should highlight a competency, perspective, or experience you have that demonstrates your commitment to DEI.
Revise and refine
As with all writing, your first draft of your diversity statement won't be your last or your best.
Have trusted advisers, mentors, and/or friends read over your statement to help make sure you're articulating your points as clearly as possible.
Should I tailor my diversity statement?
Once you have a general draft you feel comfortable with, you should make sure to research a specific institution or department's programs, efforts and policies related to DEI. When possible, align your statement with what is already happening to demonstrate that you've done your research. This will also allow you to provide more specific evidence about why you are the best candidate for their open position.
Example diversity statement
This statement was used by a candidate during a faculty job search as a fifth-year Ph.D. student. He received a faculty offer at a small liberal arts college in a psychology department.
My commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion stems from my own experiences as an undergraduate at Princeton University. As a lower-income queer student from a single-parent household, I felt out of place at Princeton to begin with. Coming from a public high school in Kentucky, I was terrified of falling behind academically.
Because of this fear, I was reluctant to try new fields, and I actively avoided asking for help from staff and faculty. During my first two years of college, I rarely felt that my professors were creating environments where my experiences were understood or valued. At my lowest, I considered transferring.
Eventually, though, I found my footing on campus through my work as a Residential College Adviser. In this role, I had the opportunity to advise a diverse group of first-year undergraduates. I was able to see the struggles that all of my advisees faced on campus, some of which overlapped with my own.
I became acutely aware of the need for universities to acknowledge the unique adversity facing each of its students. In addition, as an advisor I learned how critical it is to make it clear to students that you value the unique perspectives they each bring. These lessons are foundational to how I mentor and teach, and I will continue to emphasize equitable and inclusive treatment of students as a faculty member.
As a PhD student, I have taken on several roles related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. I was elected by my peers to serve as the liaison between graduate students and faculty in my department. This role involved collecting anecdotes and experiences from PhD students about a range of issues including microaggressions, advisor conflict, and financial strain.
In one extreme case, several PhD students in my department did not receive a paycheck one month. In response, I drafted a letter based on students' accounts of this financial hardship and sent it to the dean of my academic college. Eventually, the issue was resolved. I enjoyed using my position to support students. I think it is especially important that those with institutional influence or privilege use that status to enact change and advocate for those without the same level of access to power.
I also served on my department's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) committee. On the EDI committee, I contributed to discussions about how to promote equity and diversity in our department. I suggested that the department host a training from a member of the university's LGBTQIA center focusing on supporting queer students.
This training was well-attended and well-received by members of my department. In all of my past roles, my goal has always been to improve the experiences of people of all backgrounds. I am very interested in pursuing similar opportunities when possible at X university or college.
My goal as an instructor and mentor is to increase accessibility and promote inclusivity. In my teaching, I strive to highlight the importance of students' unique experiences and of diversity more broadly. In my Psychology of Language course, for example, I often talked openly with students about homogeneity in psycholinguistic research both in terms of who conducts studies and which samples are recruited.
I also dedicated an entire class session to talking about DEI. I assigned a recent paper about how the field could become more equitable. My students seemed to appreciate my approach. In my course evaluations, students rated whether I created an “inclusive classroom” at a 4.78 out of 5, higher than both my department and college's averages.
In my work as a writing tutor in the university's Writing Studio, I often encounter issues of equity and inclusion. In one case, for example, a student wrote a moving essay that focused on their gender identity and disability. This student was hesitant to divulge such personal information in an academic application. To belay their fears, I talked with the student about the fact that their unique experiences informed who they were and what they were hoping to do.
The student was passionate about promoting queer and marginalized voices, and they eventually chose to include information about their own identity. I am eager to continue working with students from diverse backgrounds at X college/university. I am passionate about ensuring that people from all backgrounds are able to thrive, especially in their academic endeavors.