UW Graduate School

June 6, 2019

Crafting an Effective Diversity Statement and Cover Letter

In Spring 2019, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), Core Programs in the Graduate School, the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), and the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D) co-sponsored an interactive workshop led by the UW Postdoc Diversity Alliance, Crafting an Effective Diversity Statement and Cover Letter. A panel of four speakers — Rickey Hall, vice president and university diversity officer, OMA&D; Evangelina Shreeve, director, STEM Education and Outreach, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Butch de Castro, professor and associate dean, School of Nursing; and Cynthia del Rosario, diversity, equity and access officer, Information School — shared insights on topics related to diversity statements and the job application process. We are summarizing the highlights from the panel discussion, including strategies to create effective diversity statements.

Diversity not only includes demographic characteristics like gender, race, and ethnicity; it includes all dimensions of one’s identity, such as first-generation status, economic background, immigration status and more. Some characteristics are more salient and visible than others. Inclusion means that diverse voices are included in the decision-making process. There are distinct differences between equality and equity. Equity involves giving people what they need to be as successful as non-minoritized groups; conversely, equality is to treat everyone the same. Diversity is extremely important in the science community, where different perspectives are and should be highly valued. Organizations that value diversity and inclusion strive to provide a space where all members are respected. If a system or structure perpetuates inequity and inequality, we should encourage one another to challenge this system or structure. While we are making strides to address Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) in academia, there is a lot of work ahead of us.

Diversity Statements need to be personalized: they are a reflection of your positionality, and a place where you demonstrate your passion and compassion. You can give examples about how to bring diverse perspectives into your inclusive teaching. While some organizations do not require diversity statements as part of the job application, you are encouraged to provide examples of how you uniquely prioritize DEI elsewhere in your application materials. For example, documents required by government jobs are standard. To distinguish your voice and highlight why you are the right person for a particular position, you can consider framing your cover letter (and all the other application materials) from your diversity perspective when appropriate. Use specific examples from your personal experiences. Think whether your research, teaching or public service addressed any diversity issues. Your statement works the best when you have an understanding of the diversity mission and the holistic strategic plan for your dream organization. If you haven’t had any experience with diversity, propose a plan on how you are going to be more involved when you get hired. Also consider asking your reference letter writers to address how you contributed to diversity. Authenticity is the key: be sure to let your true self come through in your application materials.

Diversity work is important. As Ricky Hall said, “Let’s hold ourselves and our colleagues accountable. We lead by engaging.” Good luck with preparing your application materials. And know that your efforts to improve the climate and culture at the UW and beyond are appreciated.