Explanation

For under-represented minorities, and other demographic groups who are in a distinct minority in a given academic field, even highly qualified candidates for a faculty position may be deterred from applying by a carelessly written job ad. Words are powerful. Their presence (absence), placement, and tone all convey (in)sincerity and signal that an applicant is welcome (or not), and/or may be a part of a larger community of like-minded individuals (or not) regardless of scholarly affinity.

The following best (worst) practices were assembled from an analysis of actual job advertisements vetted through the College of the Environment Diversity Committee. Examples of best practice wording, although adapted to the UW, are provided with their original attribution, in part to underscore those institutions with advanced practices regarding engagement, inclusion, and diversity. Worst practice language has been minimally altered to remove attribution, and is set apart with quotes to indicate language written by others.

We consider this a living document, and welcome edits and inclusions.

Best Practices

An “ideal” job advertisement should incorporate diversity throughout the ad. Collectively, this wording should strongly suggest that the university and the unit are committed to furthering diversity throughout the UW (that is, not just in the faculty).  These are suggestions for consideration – it may not be appropriate for one ad to include all of these features:

  1. in the “intellectual language” describing the position, ideally in the first paragraph of the ad.
  2. in the description of the UW (who we are as a university, who we serve) – specificity is key to believability.
  3. in a description of the region within which the UW is located
  4. if qualification bullets of the position are used (specific “shape” of the desired candidate – should be linked to one or more of the statements above; should not be the last bullet; should never be a list)
  5. link diversity statements with strong positive words (e.g., excellence, demonstrated success, richly varied)
  6. incorporate in a list of benefits available
  7. use a specific disability accommodation statement
  8. specific diversity and/or inclusion as one of the components applicants should speak to in their submitted information (cover letter, statements of teaching and research)

Required Language

Academic Human Resources has requirements for every ad, including that this Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action statement must be included in the body of every advertisement:

“University of Washington is an affirmative action and equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, protected veteran or disabled status, or genetic information.”

For more information, see https://ap.washington.edu/eoaa/equal-opportunity-and-accommodation-statements.

Intellectual Language (must be ad-specific)

Example from quantitative wildlife ecology hire

The School of Environmental and Forest Sciences has a goal of creating a dedicated team of educators capable of enabling our students to successfully explore and interpret the rich array of disciplines and perspectives contained within the wildlife sciences.

Stronger wording which may be applicable depending on disciplinary focus

We are especially interested in candidates whose work has a specific focus on understudied peoples, communities, and nations.

Who We Are (UW)

{This University} serves a diverse population of 45,000 students, faculty and staff, including 31% first-generation college students, over 30% Pell Grant-eligible students, and faculty from over 70 countries. (UW)

We seek to recruit and retain a diverse workforce to maintain the excellence of the University, and to offer students richly varied disciplines, perspectives and ways of knowing and learning. (Wake Forest)

(This University has…) a strong institutional commitment to diversity in all areas and strongly encourages candidates from underrepresented groups. We favor candidates who can contribute to the Colleges distinctive educational objectives, which promote interdisciplinary perspectives, intercultural understanding, and concern with social responsibility and the ethical implications of knowledge and action. (Pitzer College)

(The UW…) values diversity and inclusion and believes they are essential to achieving excellence.

UW Regional Setting

{This University} is located in the greater Seattle metropolitan area, with a dynamic, multicultural community of 3.6 million people and a diversity of ecosystems from mountains to ocean. (Texas A&M)

Candidate Qualifications

Mild wording

We welcome applicants with demonstrated success in working with diverse populations. (Wake Forest)

Must be able to work in a multicultural environment that reflects our student body and embraces our vision and mission. (City Colleges of Chicago – Malcolm X College)

Stronger wording

In addition to pursuing an outstanding research program, the successful candidate will be expected to provide effective instruction and advising to a diverse population of graduate and undergraduate students (Virginia Tech)

Candidates should have experience in–or the potential for–building an equitable and diverse scholarly environment in teaching, mentoring, research, life experiences, or service. (UC San Diego)

(Qualifications…) Willingness to work collaboratively with faculty and to mentor students from a wide range of disciplines, cultures and academic backgrounds is essential. (Berkeley)

The successful applicant is expected to establish a collaborative, externally funded and nationally recognized research program as well as contribute to graduate and undergraduate teaching, advising, and mentoring that support diversity and inclusion. (SEFS)

Even stronger wording

(Qualifications…) We seek candidates whose research, teaching and/or service has prepared them to contribute to our commitment to engagement and inclusion of culturally diverse audiences in higher education, and particularly in the SUPER-DISCIPLINE HERE. (Berkeley)

Successful candidates will have a demonstrated commitment to promoting diversity, inclusion, and multicultural competence in an educational and work environment and must be willing to contribute to the Colleges strategic plan of inclusion (Edgewood College)

(Qualifications…) Demonstrate multicultural competence the awareness, knowledge, and skills needed to work with others who are culturally different from self in meaningful, relevant, and productive ways. (Edgewood College)

Application Materials

(Applications must include…) a statement of teaching philosophy, including a statement of experience with, and commitment to, teaching a diverse student body (CSU San Marcos)

(Applications must include…) a separate statement that addresses how their cultural, experiential, and/or academic background contributes to the understanding of diversity at the College (Pitzer College)

(Letter of application should…) highlight how you integrate quantitative approaches into your work and include a brief statement on how your teaching, research and/or service demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion through scholarship or by improving access to higher education for underrepresented individuals or groups. (SEFS)

Benefits

health/vision/dental plans including spouse, domestic partner and/or dependents (CS Fullterton)

access to campus child-care (CS Fullterton)

a wide range of networking, mentoring and development opportunities for junior faculty (Virginia Tech)

a wide range of networking and development opportunities to women and minorities in science and engineering. (Virginia Tech)

The University of Nebraska has an active National Science Foundation ADVANCE gender equity program, and is committed to a pluralistic campus community through affirmative action, equal opportunity, work-life balance, and dual careers (UN-Lincoln)

Accommodation

Individuals with disabilities desiring accommodations in the application process should notify NAME SPECIFIC PERSON, UNIT NAME, PHONE # or call TTY PHONE #. (Virginia Tech)

Worst Practices

Poor ads do not incorporate diversity throughout, but rather use a poorly placed generic statement or legalese. In particular, these ads:

1. Encourage X,Y, Z people to apply but don’t reference diversity anywhere else in the ad; list the groups of people encouraged to apply – “The List”

“Women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged to apply…the University of X does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status.”

“University X is an AA/EEO employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnic or national origin, sex, disability, age (40 and over), status as a protected veteran, genetic information or any other category protected by federal or state law. Inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies should be directed to equity@XYZ.edu”

2. Use a broad, impersonal statement, especially in a different font and offset from the rest of the ad but don’t reference diversity anywhere else in the ad – “The Diversity Stamp”

“The University of X is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status or sexual orientation.”

3. Use legalese that implies a legal obligation rather than a commitment to diversity

“The University of X, as an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding nondiscrimination and affirmative action.”

“X University is an EO/AA/ADA employer.”

4. Do not consider context and place diversity language at the end of the ad. In particular: (1) come after the “housekeeping” details such address for application materials, and (2) are adjacent to statements implying those with criminal records may not be hired

“Finalists must provide a transcript for the highest degree. Applications must be postmarked by DATE. … University X is an Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer and encourages applications from women, minorities, veterans, and individuals with disabilities. Background check required for employment.”

5. Do not consider accessibility of their online application process. Some document formats, such as PDFs, are not compatible with assistive technology that visually impaired people may use.

6. Reference dated (> 3 years old) awards and recognitions related to diversity. This may unintentionally imply that nothing else has been achieved more recently.

Not convinced?

Review the research that indicates unintended biases results in unfair evaluations for women and people of color.

Another recent study that showed science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students.

For additional resources on diversity and faculty hiring, check out:

UW Faculty Recruitment Toolkit

Penn State Guidelines

For a start-to-finish faculty hiring guide, check out the UMich Advance Handbook for Faculty Searches and Hiring.