6

I am applying for an accounting position at a local college, and the application requires I write a diversity statement. I have to answer the following:

In a separate statement, address how your skills, experience and education have prepared you to serve and meet the needs of a diverse student/staff population.

To me, diversity means multi-cultural, however, answers to several related questions on this site tend to point to socio-economic diversity. As a white, male, accountant, how do I answer this?

Below you will find my rough outline with a few personal items about myself.

  1. Skills -I speak a little spanish - not fluent, but enough to play soccer, order food, and flirt with women.
  2. Experience -worked as a tax auditor for one of the poorest counties in the state, where most people, including myself, were considered “low income”. -The County had a significant Native American population, and I regularly dealt with tribes who owned casinos within the county.
  3. Education -Attended diverse, public schools in Los Angeles. -Borrowed money to attend ultra-liberal university, whose motto is: “Exploring Cultural Identities & Raising Global Consciousness”.
    • Had a bi-lingual graduation ceremony at the university.

This question seems odd to me, since growing up in LA taught me you either embrace diversity or get the **** kicked out of you. Am I on the right track here? I have plenty of "diverse" and "low-income" experiences, but don't want to appear "hood" or unprofessional. For example, should I mention witnessing the race riots when I was a child? What would be an acceptable answer for an older, presumably white, middle-class manager, considering I am a white male who plays up his strengths in his resume/cover letter?

In particular, I'm having trouble relating my job skills to this question.

2
  • 6
    Diversity also includes gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.
    – Jane S
    Jun 3, 2015 at 3:32
  • I realize these are not good points, which is wny i'm asking for help how to answer this. i have yet to get a constructive answer, so i'll probably just delete the question in a bit. At this point i'm considering not applying for this job if this is the sort of thing i'll have to put up with. Jun 3, 2015 at 15:29

4 Answers 4

12

A diversity statement is primarily intended for you to state your tolerance, acceptance and respect for people of different cultures, values, religions, gender and sexual preferences.

Stating that you "speak a little Spanish" almost sounds kitsch, like saying you once met a Spanish person. Your comment then about "flirting with women" is outright inappropriate and would put your application straight in the bin with me (as a female).

What you want to impress on the reader is that you accept that people are different, and those differences are to be celebrated. Trying to give examples feels like a token gesture. People are people, and whatever their background (including socio-economic circumstances) does not have any impact on the fact that everyone deserves respect.

3
  • 4
    +1 for highlighting what kind of reaction could cause such a sentence. Please keep in mind that sexism could be some (if not the only) reason to ask for a diversity statement. If you need to explain it, you could say that you speak "enough for a casual conversation" but you never had any chance to use professionally. Jun 3, 2015 at 18:22
  • 15
    I object to labeling "enough Spanish to flirt..." as sexist. It's inappropriate and doesn't leave a good impression, but what exactly is sexist about it? Would it be less objectionable if he had said "flirting with men" or just "flirting"? Not every inappropriate thing a straight man utters is sexist, and applying that label willy-nilly dilutes it's impact.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 3, 2015 at 22:31
  • 3
    @ColleenV I see your point and am quite happy to change the word from "sexist" to "inappropriate".
    – Jane S
    Jun 3, 2015 at 22:33
6

I would go with something like this:

"I was brought up in an environment in which embracing diversity was instilled early. I have successfully worked with clients and supervised staff from a wide range of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. I went to a bi-lingual college and have worked closely with several Native American tribes."

3
  • 3
    So if you were brought up in a rural area with no immigrant population then the college's diversity policy would discriminate against you ? Jun 4, 2015 at 0:30
  • 3
    If you have never interacted (or been prepared to interact) with anyone of a different racial or socio-economic background then yes this would discriminate against you. However this sort of discrimination is allowed so they are fine using it.
    – Myles
    Jun 4, 2015 at 16:07
  • 2
    Never having interacted with people from a different background would not be a serious problem, as long as the "diversity statement" shows that you have thought a bit about the problems we're trying to solve. If it were up to me to decide, such a candidate would be preferred over one who believes that ticking a few boxes and counting the number of different cultures one has interacted with is enough to pass this stage. Jul 13, 2020 at 10:01
1

To several students, university is a refuge from their home communities that are less tolerant, while other students are bringing the intolerance from their home communities into the university, and these are likely the same origin communities.

Even as an accountant, you are in a faculty position and will likely be pulled into power plays between different factions, for example a religious household trying to interfere with their child's education to "bring them back into the fold" might try to get a grant pulled to make them dependent on the family again.

Expect that you will be hassled by intolerant people into doing their dirty work for them, and that even minor decisions you make have fairly far-reaching consequences for some students because of their background, and that sometimes the aggressor in one case is the victim in another.

Culture is complex, and a hijab wearing Muslim trans girl who is not out to their parents (so if they call, make sure to use the wrong pronoun) might still be intolerant of her roommate, who works as a prostitute because that is the only way she can afford the education, and the local "debate club" wants them both gone for refusing to engage in an "open-ended" polite debate over their right to exist and is filing grievances.

You will get more insight into people's lives than you wanted, and you need to be prepared that you will not always like what you see and still be required to do what's best for everyone.

The usual truth about politics applies here as well: there is no neutral side, because refusing to act is an act in itself, so there is no safe spot even for an accountant to avoid politics by blindly following some procedures.

The university's position is that the students are generally seen as individuals capable of making their own choice regarding their identity, but are less confident in the ability of humans to respect each other's choices, and would like to make sure that you are willing and able to follow a policy that reflects that.

Pretty much the worst outcome for a university would be that students do not feel safe interacting with staff, and safety includes things like being reliable secret keepers for things that might not even regularly be secrets in your own culture (e.g. payment slips for the cafeteria are highly sensitive information during Ramadan).

The university wants to know whether, if they put you in this position, can you become a person students trust?

1

You could mention how you understand that different people have different needs and issues they face, and experience life in very different ways due to a diverse range of factors such as socio-economic background, race, gender identity and orientation. You could then say how you feel it is important to avoid assumptions, stereotyping, actions or questions that could be considered micro-aggressions, and that you strive to make yourself aware of those issues in a changing environment.

Avoid specific examples, the goal is to demonstrate you know the principals.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .