But even more than that, I am intrigued by how statements of diversity are phrased. According to institutions that are Equal Opportunity (EEO) and/or Affirmative Action (AA) employers, federal law says they must at the very least include this:FooBar is an Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Employer.But some institutions go beyond this, and actually craft wording into their ad which makes me believe they mean it. For example, when they say something like, "We are committed to building a diverse organization, and strongly encourage people from minority groups, women, and people with disabilities to apply," I am far more likely to believe them. And when they even go beyond that and explain what steps they've done to build a more inclusive workplace, such as on site childcare, a fully accessible campus, etc., I am even more likely to believe them.
FCS then goes on to make some suggestions as to how to really signal an interest in diversity. You should read the whole post, and also the comments which added to the discussion (and stayed civil).
I had two additional thoughts on the subject that later became post-length. First, it is not good enough to just write nicer text to improve diversity in a department (and this goes for academia or industry). Lip service is lip service, no matter how poetic. So what is a department to do when they realize that everyone on the faculty is white and male, but the world contains people of all colors of the rainbow and more than one gender? I am the type of person who thinks it is never too late to change, and in this job market the key issue is in expand diversity in the applicant pool. There are lots and lots of qualified candidates of all races and genders. So how to get them interested in the position?
1. Advertise the position in targeted scientific publications or websites (for example, groups like the Society of Women Engineers, the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, or the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science). There are many of these support/advocacy groups out there, and most will advertise jobs to their members. Taking the time/money to advertise with them sends a strong message that OldBoy U is really and truly interested in hiring someone different looking. It will also help broaden the applicant pool, since you have a much better chance of reaching qualified scientists from underrepresented groups.
2. Be inclusive at the interview (and this should be for EVERYONE). Don't have conversations at meals that the candidate can't possibly participate in! This is awkward for any candidate. It will particularly make the "otherness" stand out for someone who already will be the only one of their group in your department.
Diversity (or lack thereof) absolutely is noticeable to candidates! Quoting an earlier post of mine:
When I was interviewing for faculty positions, I noted the number of women and underrepresented minorities on the faculty and in the student body. Several departments had just one woman and no visible underrepresented minorities. This was hugely unattractive to me, especially after working in my diverse division at National Lab. My current department has almost 20% women and several underrepresented visible minorities on the faculty. This was an important secondary consideration (after research fit and startup package, and on par with location and salary). I definitely prefer to work in my department with many women at all ranks than to be alone or 1 of 2.This is clearly a recruitment edge for my department. I do understand that by not wanting to be a pioneer, this just passes the burden to someone else, and I am grateful to the women who came before me for doing just that. But in this day and age, foresighted departments/workplaces/divisions should get to reap the benefit of their hard work to diversify in the past. The presence of women in positions of leadership in the department and at the university is an important signal...
I think that diversity recruiting can be a vicious or virtuous cycle, where groups that are all-male can have trouble recruiting female students due to the actual or feared lab culture, and groups that are more balanced are more attractive to women (as in the case for me when I was job searching). It would not surprise me if this were true for people from other underrepresented groups as well.