Diversity Advocate

Responsibilities and Guidelines

All members of a search committee are considered active advocates for the university’s commitment to intentionally act to create a diverse and inclusive community. The Diversity Advocate, a full, voting member of the search committee, advances this commitment by promoting the most effective and inclusive search possible and monitoring the process during all phases. We have prepared suggestions and resources for achieving a diverse applicant pool.

General Responsibilities of the Diversity Advocate

In general the Diversity Advocate should:

  • Be a vocal and responsible advocate for diversity and inclusion keeping in mind the goals and principles of diversity described in the official Statement on Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Actively monitor each stage of the search process to ensure an equitable and open search consistent with the goals established at the onset of the process.
  • Facilitate thoughtful exchanges about how diversity can help the department close the gap between the current state and aspirations (e.g. attract a broader mix of majors or graduate students, mentor diverse students, offer different curricular or research opportunities, attract funding, etc.).
  • Lead discussions related to strategies for developing a diverse pool that could lead to attracting and hiring women, persons of color, persons with disabilities and veterans. Keep the issues at the center of every strategic conversation and each phase of the decision-making process.
  • Assist the committee in self-scrutiny about potential biases towards, for example, identity group or academic affiliations. Encourage search committee members to think about how innate schemas may lead to unconscious and unintended bias in how members relate to individuals/events/information throughout the evaluation and selection process. Suggest a review of one or more of the following links to draw attention to the issues:
  • Drawing attention to the assumptions individual members may bring to their evaluation of candidates when such assumptions are leading the committee away from an objective assessment of the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary to be a top candidate.

Other Specific Duties of the Diversity Advocate

  • Take the lead on identifying and addressing systemic issues.
  • Identify and recommend best practices for an effective search, including, but not limited to flexible position announcements, targeted and or interdisciplinary areas of scholarship or research, diverse search committees and tools to evaluate every candidate on all established criteria.
  • Bring process gaps to the attention of the search committee and/or the chairperson for immediate action. Process gaps may include the following:
    • Bias, prejudice or stereotyping in verbal or written communications, such as meetings, written correspondence, and interview questions;
    • Inadequate representation of underutilized groups in applicant pool or short list of candidates;
    • Bias, prejudice or stereotyping of candidates during evaluation period;
    • And/or insufficient outreach done to solicit a diverse applicant pool.
  • Work with Faculty Recruitment to approve the applicant pool (FRPR can provide a breakdown of the applicant pool by race and gender).
  • Verification that a search followed University guidelines and included good faith efforts to meet affirmative action goals.
  • Approval of a hiring plan that incorporates multiple efforts at various stages of the search process.
  • Central offices (i.e. DOF, Provost, Human Resources) should be utilized to support your efforts. They can offer assistance with:
    • Defining data collection requirements;
    • Compiling data, increasing administrative capacity, and identifying financial and other resources.

Important Considerations

The Diversity Advocate should encourage the careful consideration of the following:

Criteria for Selection and the Position Description

When appropriate, develop a broad definition of the position and the desired scholarship, experience, and disciplinary background. Consider that a narrowly defined search may tend to exclude women or people of color because of pipeline issues and may limit your ability to consider candidates with a different profile who, nonetheless, qualify for your position.

Be clear about what is really “required” (the basic qualifications) and what is “preferred.” In addition, consider including “experience working with/teaching diverse groups/diverse students” as one of your preferred criteria. However, remember that while it is important to establish preferred qualifications prior to advertising a position and to use them in evaluating applicants/candidates, these qualifications must not be included in the position.

Give thoughtful consideration to how the content of an advertisement raises awareness about GW in certain communities for current and future hiring.

Recruitment and Outreach 

The Diversity Advocate should encourage the committee to be actively involved in setting the scope of and implementing a recruitment strategy.

Ask committee members to:

  • Make calls and send e-mails or letters to a wide range of contacts asking for potential candidates. Ask specifically if they have diverse candidates to recommend.
  • Make an effort to identify contacts that have diverse backgrounds or experiences. Such contacts may help you reach highly qualified minority/women candidates.
  • Make lists of professional meetings, professional societies, members of these societies, etc. and use them to recruit candidates.
  • Call potential candidates directly to encourage them to apply.
  • Engage local networks of people in related fields at the University and/or related organizations, and businesses to see if they know of potential candidates.
  • Survey departments at other universities to see which of them have strong records in awarding PhDs to underrepresented individuals and contact them for names of candidates.
  • Have a discussion in a department meeting to brainstorm other active recruiting strategies and to discuss diversity as part of the educational mission.

Applicant Pool

Above all, remember that the goal is to EXPAND the pool of potential candidates. Sifting and winnowing will occur later in the process.

Short-List of Candidates

The “short list” of candidates to be invited to visit campus should take into account the goals and needs of the department and every effort should be made to have a slate of candidates that reflects the success you have made in developing a diverse applicant pool.


The Diversity Advocate should monitor the interviewing process:

  • Develop interview questions for both phone and campus interviews that relate to the position description and selection criteria. Encourage all interviewers to review pre-employment inquiries. 
  • Encourage the use of evaluation instruments throughout the selection process to promote job-related feedback, consistency and fairness.
  • Treat the campus visit as one, continuous interview, including individual interview sessions, colloquia, teaching demonstrations, meals, informal conversations, etc.

Diversity Advocates Are NOT expected to:

  • Try to control the outcome
  • Replicate the search chair’s role
  • Assume they understand others’ motives, goals or objectives
  • Be passive or overly deferential
  • “Go it alone” if frustrated, confused, worried or concerned