Skip to main content

Appendix A - The Role of the Equity Representative

Serving as an equity representative means knowing procedures, compliance, policy, and philosophy. Be creative, use the available resources, and don’t limit yourself to what has been done previously.

Equity representatives facilitate a search committee’s approach to the task of faculty search. They help develop a philosophy of diversity and inclusion. The entire committee together to develop a practice in its work that is based on the twin aims of excellence and diversity. The equity representative serves as a key person (but not exclusively) to help the committee consider:

  • what innovations and creativity might help to expand a range of viewpoints;
  • how the search committee can best use, review, and refresh both the procedures and compliance requirements; and
  • what practices at the local level can be leveraged through knowledge of the terrain and players .


Systems, forms, timelines, and other procedures for Northwestern’s faculty search committees are continually upgraded and revised to reflect technology, communication flow, and multilevel decision-making. These procedures orchestrate the mechanics of the overall search process. The Faculty Recruiting System is currently the University’s technology interface for faculty searches.


A faculty search’s legal considerations, including requirements and limitations, are not negotiable. Certain compliance requirements, such as the Faculty Search Summary form, are built into the Faculty Recruiting System.


Neither search procedures nor the compliance requirements ensure a diverse search process. Some Northwestern policies are designed to achieve excellence—for example, the checks and balances created through the composition of a search committee, voting policies, and multi-layered recommendations. The position of equity representative is specifically mandated at Northwestern with the aim of achieving diverse excellence.

Defining the Position

  • Ask whether an open search will yield candidates who would reinforce the status quo.
  • Consider narrowing the field in ways that may yield a more diverse set of faculty research in relation to your specific discipline.

Expanding Application Materials

  • Consider asking for a diversity letter or allowing for a diversity letter as an option in the job application. Much like a teaching statement, diversity letters can allow applicants to personally address how they contribute to diverse excellence. You can direct applicants to upload this as a separate PDF in the faculty search system.
  • Consider asking for demonstrated evidence of teaching and/or training diverse student populations as a required or preferred qualification. 

Broadening the Pool Through Outreach and Advertising

  • You and your colleagues can target individuals whom you would like to consider applying.
  • Use social media to publicize the open position.
  • Advertise in the usual places early, setting a clear deadline but knowing that the deadline can be extended if your pool is too small or not sufficiently diverse.

Forming the Search Committee and the Review Process

  • Research shows that having more reviewers yields better outcomes.
  • Having a committee member from outside your department is important to the overall flow of decision-making and good practices.
  • To the best of your ability, avoid a bottleneck where one or two people eliminate applications. With the Faculty Recruitment System, all faculty on the search committee can review all applications.
  • Clarify with the department chair the search committee’s precise charge and its relationship to the entire department.
  • Use available resources citing research training to minimize unconscious bias.
  • Set ground rules for how decisions are made within the search committee. For example, the equity representative can set practices to ensure that no one dominates the conversation and that all feel free to express their opinions.

Initial Review of Candidates and Creating the Short List

  • Focus on the substance and quality of applicants’ research. Calling attention to their undergraduate institution, graduate program, or adviser can engender bias.
  • Request that the Office of Equity provide a de-identified report of your applicant pool.
  • Delay closing the search if necessary.
  • A longer short list can increase diverse outcomes.

On-campus Interviews

  • Review allowed and disallowed questions with all applicable faculty.
  • Consider including and inviting undergraduate students to the job talk.
  • Include your graduate students in ways that are significant for both good decision-making and their professional development
  • Recommend that each faculty member who meets with candidates use consistent questions.
  • Consider using a web-based survey tool after each interview to gather feedback from faculty and students.
  • Consider soliciting your staff’s view of the candidates.
  • Direct all candidates to the same material about HR benefits and available work-life resources.

Take Advantage of Available Assistance

Contact Northwestern’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion.

Timeline of Milestones for Active Intervention

The Hiring Plan

  • Explicate what your department or program has contributed toward diversifying your faculty
  • What would a diverse hire in your (sub)discipline mean?

The Ad

  • Use specific language that identifies the area of research
  • Provide the option for a diversity letter
  • Use social media
  • Target potential applicants

Search Committee Balance

  • Include members from outside the department
  • Be attentive to inclusive dynamics
  • Consider training to mitigate unconscious bias

The Review

  • Request applicant pool data
  • Focus on the substance of the applicant’s research over the pedigree
  • Allow for multiple readers before rejecting an applicant

The Campus Interview

  • Review acceptable and unacceptable questions with applicable faculty
  • Use standardized questions with all candidates
  • Provide all candidates with material about work-life balance at Northwestern