How to write a diversity statement

What should you put in a diversity statement? In this video, Pardis Mahdavi gives examples of what to include and how candidates for academic jobs and search committees can use the document to reflect on EDI actions, impact and goals

Pardis Mahdavi's avatar
7 Apr 2022
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Created in partnership with

Created in partnership with

Arizona State University

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Diversity statements: what to avoid and what to include
Advice on what to do and what not to do when writing diversity statements for online courses

Key Details

This video will cover:

00:23 Diversity statements are an invitation to reflect on EDI work

01:09 Why they are important for search committees

01:29 How to write a diversity statement


Hi, my name is Pardis Mahdavi, and I am the dean of social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a professor at Arizona State University. I’m delighted to be here today to talk with you a little bit more about diversity statements.

Diversity statements are really an invitation for you as a candidate, or someone who’s going up for promotion, to offer your thoughts about the importance of the structural changes that can be made to make your institution, or possible institution, a more diverse, equitable and inclusive space. These are a vital part of a search process or a promotion process because, as a candidate, it is an opportunity for you to reflect on your values and how these align with the institution and talk about the structural changes that you would like to see, structural changes that you’ve experienced, things that you have seen done particularly well that you would want to emulate, or failures that you would like to avoid.

If you’re a member of a search committee, this is an important part of the process because it offers you an opportunity to reflect on your own institution as well as the candidate and how you come in alignment with each other to uphold justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, or JEDI principles.

How to write a diversity statement. There are some red flags to avoid as well as some key highlights that you want to incorporate.

Things you want to avoid: diversity by proxy is the first. Try not to take credit for things that are others’ work or experiences. For example, candidates sometimes will say: “My department is the most diverse department in the country.” That is the work of your department. Instead, try to focus on your own experiences, what you have done, what you have done to change the institution. So, avoid diversity by proxy.

Also, you want to avoid exceptionalist arguments. These are arguments wherein you might state that because of a particular field you’re in, or because of a particular area of the institution that you work in, that you can’t actually impact diversity. Diversity work is everyone’s responsibility and everyone’s prerogative, so these kinds of exceptionalist arguments are not going to come off well for a diversity statement, to someone who’s reading one.

Instead, focus on structural challenges and structural changes that you would like to see. If you haven’t been in a position of power, that’s OK. You can talk about things you’ve observed or things that you would do. For example, you might talk about changing promotion processes or making certain things more accessible or more equitable, technology, or offering new financial models that make your institution more accessible. These are structural changes that really impact diversity, equity and inclusion.

You also might want to talk about how to recognise invisible labour. What is the invisible labour that occurs at your institution and how might you actually elevate the visibility of those who are doing diversity work? How might you think about baking in the work that they do as central to the work of your institution, and what efforts you would personally bring to ensure that this becomes central to the institution that you’re joining, or that you are already a part of.

And finally, think about enlightened mentoring and collaborative possibilities. Collaboration is an excellent way to be more inclusive, and thinking about mentoring possibilities, enlightened mentoring that acknowledges power, privilege and position. These are all examples of structural changes that you might bring to the table and you can offer up as a possibility or as an experience that you’ve actually gone through at an institution in your diversity statement.

So, your diversity statement is an invitation to talk about your reflections on things that you’ve seen work or not work, as well as an opportunity for you to discuss your values in the space of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Remember, diversity work is everybody’s prerogative, and this is an opportunity for you to talk about how you want to be included in your new community in order to uphold the social change that will make your institution a more welcoming place. Thank you.

Pardis Mahdavi is dean of social sciences at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and directs the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University.


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