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Writing a Diversity and Inclusivity Statement

Guidelines for Nursing Programs and Faculty

Pitts, Courtney DNP, MPH, FNP-BC; Hudson, Tamika DNP, FNP-C; Reeves, Geri PhD, FNP-BC; Christenbery, Tom PhD, RN; Johnson, Rolanda PhD, RN

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/NNE.0000000000000754

Abstract

The scope of diversity is broad and includes, but is not limited to, age, gender, and ethnicity (Supplemental Digital Content, Table 1, http://links.lww.com/NE/A699). Although not mandated by authoritative bodies, a nursing program's diversity and inclusivity statement is often integral to the mission of the parent organization. From a legal and ethical standpoint, its presence and integration into policies and practices deter discriminatory behavior that can negatively impact faculty, staff, and students. The purpose of this article is to provide nursing faculty with evidence-supported guidelines for writing meaningful diversity and inclusivity statements for nursing programs.

Background

Diversity and inclusivity statements have historical roots in legal and social justice movements, raising public consciousness about inequality, inequity, and unfairness for many diverse groups of people. For example, in 1948, President Truman used an Executive Order to officially desegregate the armed services. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act made it illegal for any private or public business to engage in discriminatory hiring and termination practices. The enactment of Title IX, in 1972, prohibited discrimination based on sex. With the introduction of transcultural nursing, nursing professionals and nurse educators have worked to address the need for a culturally diverse workforce and student body. As the movement for more diverse and inclusive environments continued to progress, professional nursing organizations began to release statements and resources addressing diversity, inclusion, and equity related to its impact on the nursing profession. In 2008, the National League for Nursing released the National League for Nursing Diversity Toolkit to provide evidence-based strategies and exemplars for administrative leadership, as well as faculty and staff.1 Since then, other professional organizations have released similar statements calling for the need to address this area in academic nursing (Supplemental Digital Content, Table 2, http://links.lww.com/NE/A700).

Astute nursing faculty should review and revise mission statements, strategic plans, recruitment and retention efforts, and program curricula to be more inclusive. To support these efforts, the development of a diversity and inclusivity statement is critical. Williams and Clowney2 attributed the adoption of diversity and inclusivity statements in higher education to 4 pressures: (1) federal, state, and local mandates and regulations; (2) the changing demographics of the US population; (3) the need for a culturally responsive workforce; and (4) social inequities among racial and ethnic persons of color.2

Diversity and inclusivity statements should help attract people from diverse backgrounds and include language that stresses the value of their experiences, thoughts, and contributions. Statements that include language promoting discriminatory behavior, such as gender favorability, are counterproductive.3 Similarly, statements that infer that diversity and inclusivity goals are met repel the targeted population.3 Nursing faculty should assess its ability to develop an appropriate diversity and inclusivity statement that is aligned with the program's mission and reflective of its diversity and inclusivity initiatives. However, nursing faculty should be reflective about their experiences with diversity and inclusivity to ensure the successful creation of a statement.

With this increasing pressure, nursing programs have realigned mission and diversity statements to be reflective of the learning and working environment they wish to create. Faculty, administrators, staff, and students have assembled committees and workgroups with the goal of developing a statement that addresses the acceptance, inclusion, and success of all underrepresented groups.4 Through these statements, nursing programs are shaping the diversity climate and positively impacting experiences and outcomes of faculty and students of color.4

One way to help nursing programs achieve full and fair integration and promote upward mobility is through writing a meaningful and effective diversity and inclusivity statement. A nursing program's diversity and inclusivity statement should arise from the recognition that all voices, life experiences, and expertise of diverse groups are valued and rewarded equitably across all organizational levels. A workplace that values diversity begins with a diversity and inclusivity statement that reflects meaning and purpose and can withstand the rigors of critical evaluation. For these statements to have impact and fulfill the promise of implementation of diversity and inclusivity goals, care should be taken in how the statement is crafted and written.

Writing the Statement

Prior to statement development, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the parent organization's position on diversity and inclusion. A review of the parent organization's mission statement in addition to conversations with senior leadership is an effective way to acquire this understanding. Taking time to reflect on the program's current state in the areas of diversity and inclusion is an important first step. More specifically, there should be a reflection on current practices, successes, and areas of improvement. It is also important to determine which current policies and practices, such as holistic admissions review, hold the promise of supporting a progressive diversity and inclusivity statement that will connect with the program's overall strategic plan.

Elements of an Effective Statement

There are 3 critical elements in an effective diversity and inclusivity statement: (1) value, (2) plausibility, and (3) accountability.5 Value relates to the core principles that guide an organization's work and is an important part of an organization's culture. It is defined as behaviors and perspectives that are cherished within an organization.6 For example, such values as “we aspire to treat everyone fairly” and “we value collaboration among faculty, staff, and students with different backgrounds and perspectives” do not directly mention inclusiveness, but promote the development of an inclusive environment.

Framing values as aspirational statements has been found to be more effective than declarative statements.3 For example, statements such as “Nursing School X does not discriminate” create an impression that the organization has achieved equity and fairness, when, in fact, nondiscrimination is an ideal state that may not be realized. More effective is a statement that emphasizes that the organization and its members recognize and are working to overcome stereotype-based biases and strive to provide a nondiscriminatory, fair, and equitable environment.3

Plausibility is the degree that a diversity statement reflects the experiences and hopes of current and potential members of the organization.3 It requires that a diverse group of individuals are invited to share their thoughts on diversity and inclusion within the organization and what should be included in the statement. For example, a plausible statement is: “We strive to develop and foster a culture where inclusiveness is a natural reflex.”

A diversity and inclusivity statement is a significant component of an organization's overall strategic plan. The statement should be followed up with actions and accountability. However, accountability is not a one-size-fits-all. Organizations must tailor metrics and accountability to the organization's structure and culture.7 For instance, an accountability statement might indicate the creation of affinity groups specifically targeting underrepresented individuals and cultures.

From a practical perspective, a diversity and inclusivity statement should embody a program's commitment to inclusiveness. The statement should also include components that relate directly or indirectly to diversity and inclusion:

  • equitable treatment of all individuals (considering more than race, ethnic origin, and socioeconomic status, but also age, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other variables);
  • commitment to diversity by faculty, students, and staff;
  • recognition of the rights of all individuals to mutual respect;
  • individual and organizational efforts to build an inclusive environment; and
  • affirmative language that evokes positive feelings (eg, freedom, growth, and experiences).

Administration and Stakeholder Engagement

Diversity and inclusivity statements provide organizational participants with opportunities to raise concerns about an organization's behavior and plans for its behavior modification. For these opportunities to be realized, there must be buy-in from administration, faculty, staff, and students when the statement is created. To ensure an inclusive process, representatives from each of these groups should be invited to participate in the process of developing the statement.6

Once the statement is written, administration should be prepared to address and move their organization forward in the domains of diversity and inclusion.8,9 It is the responsibility of administration to ensure that the underlying principles of the statement are integral components of the nursing program's philosophy, core values, and strategic plan. If this is not the case, the diversity and inclusivity statement becomes mere words and will not be viewed as a meaningful and essential foundation of the nursing program mission. This is not to infer that diversity and inclusion will dissolve without administrative support, but clearly administration facilitates the process of integration and sustainability of the statement's propositions. Moreover, to be effective, components of the diversity and inclusivity statement should be intertwined throughout all aspects of academia including classroom, clinical practice, and faculty, staff, and student interactions. The major stakeholders are fundamental to implementing the principles of the diversity and inclusivity statement throughout the organization.

Administration bears the responsibility for the overall development of a strategic plan that encompasses and implements the statement principles, beginning at the individual level.10 Stakeholder engagement is central to the process of the development and fulfillment of organizational goals. This is no different when instituting diversity and inclusion principles throughout nursing programs and academia. Stakeholder engagement of faculty, staff, and students within nursing programs cannot be overlooked as the implementation of the diversity and inclusivity statement is contingent on the stakeholders' level of commitment. Naturally, higher positive levels of commitment from all stakeholders ensure not only implementation of diversity statements but also their sustainability within the program. Successful implementation may require a shift in organization paradigm and pedagogy. Ultimately, stakeholders need to commit to the implementation of the diversity and inclusivity statement throughout the nursing program to transform the environment of the organization.10

Integration of Statement into Nursing Program Culture

Goals for the integration of a diversity and inclusivity statement into a nursing program culture include enhancing representation, retention, and a sense of belonging for faculty, staff, and students from marginalized backgrounds. This is accomplished by the provision of an operational framework to foster academic and social inclusivity. Thoughtful integration transcends an academic document into common beliefs and principles the organization can use to govern. Incorporation of a diversity and inclusivity statement into frequently utilized policies and practices transforms the statement into a living facet of the organization.11 This facet should be embedded within the overall mission and spirit of the organization.

Academic organizations should be creative in designing interventions specific to the program's mission related to diversity and inclusion. Strategic planning should address incorporating diversity and inclusion principles at student, faculty, and staff orientations; recruitment events; and on school display boards, websites, and brochures.11 The diversity and inclusion strategic plan should be anchored by the organization's diversity and inclusivity statement. A core group of diverse individuals from the varying levels within the program can be convened into a workgroup or committee to develop a statement and plan its integration (Supplemental Digital Content, Figure, http://links.lww.com/NE/A698). This group's charge would include evaluating the cultural climate of the program, modify recruitment and retention efforts to foster a diverse environment, and facilitate growth of faculty competencies in cultural awareness in relation to teaching and evaluation methods.

An example of integration is the development of a diversity and inclusion webpage on the nursing program's website to attract and engage diverse groups. The program's webpage should include the diversity and inclusivity statement, contact information of leaders of diversity and inclusion efforts, and other interventions implemented throughout the program (Table).

Table
Table:
Examples of Diversity and Inclusivity Statement Integration Into Nursing Program

Outcomes

Integration of the diversity and inclusivity statement and expected outcomes are tightly woven and difficult to deconstruct. Additionally, there is scarcity in models to evaluate these outcomes. Academic and social outcomes are favorable when academic organizations explicitly address diversity.11 Sources of outcomes include surveys; focus groups; recruitment, retention, and promotion benchmarks; and faculty identification of diversity and inclusivity involvement during annual performance review, among others. Program evaluation and climate surveys provide key indicators for diversity and inclusivity success. The diversity statement cultivates a cohesiveness to guide civil behavior and academic advancement for faculty, staff, and students.

Evaluating Effectiveness of Diversity and Inclusivity Statements

Nursing faculty and administrators should be committed to strengthening the quality and outcomes of their diversity, inclusion, and equity activities. Effective evaluation promotes an understanding of how to monitor and improve these endeavors. As part of program evaluation, a program's diversity and inclusivity statement should be reviewed annually.

Evaluation of this statement has 3 primary components. First, it is important to determine if the diversity and inclusivity statement provides an accurate and updated depiction of the program's goals and expectations about cultural diversity and inclusivity. For example, if the school's stakeholders believe that all members of the school have an obligation to manage differences with skill and sensitivity, the statement should make that expectation clear. Second, a diversity and inclusivity statement can serve as the model or framework for identifying capacity-building activities that support a climate of improved inclusivity and equity for historically underrepresented nursing program stakeholders. Examples of capacity-building activities include diversity-related conferences that enhance intercultural skills, community engagement opportunities with underserved or unconnected groups, and participating in multicultural social activities, among others. Third, evaluation of the diversity and inclusivity statement should provide an opportunity for stakeholders to reset goals and activities for the upcoming year that will help stakeholders to develop policies and practices that aim for a more inclusive and equitable organization climate. Evaluation provides an opportunity to assess whether the diversity and inclusivity mission is being accomplished and, if not, what areas may need deliberate and focused attention.

CONCLUSION

Evidence of diversity and inclusion should be threaded throughout the mission, policies, practices, and curricula of nursing programs and its respective parent organization. It is critical that this statement contain the elements necessary to attract underrepresented populations. Administrative and stakeholder involvement in the process of developing the statement ensures that it is adopted and integrated within the nursing program culture. Lastly, evaluation of the diversity and inclusivity statement and its respective initiatives should be reviewed on a regular, established schedule to measure impact and the need for modification.

References

1. National League of Nursing. NLN diversity and inclusion toolkit. http://www.nln.org/docs/default-source/professional-development-programs/diversity_toolkit.pdf?sfvrsn=6. Published 2017. Accessed March 26, 2019.
2. Williams D, Clowney C. Strategic planning for diversity and organizational change: a primer for higher-education leadership. Effect Pract Acad Lead Stylus Brief. 2007;2(3):1–16.
3. Carnes M, Fin E, Sheridan J. Promises and pitfalls of diversity statements: proceed with caution. Acad Med. 2019;94(1):20–24.
4. Wilton LS, Good JJ, Moss-Racusin CA, Sanchez DT. Communicating more than diversity: the effect of organizational diversity statements on expectations and performance as a function of race and gender. Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol. 2015;21(3):315–325.
5. US Lacrosse Diversity and Inclusion. Creating an inclusion statement. https://www.uslacrosse.org/sites/default/files/public/documents/programs/inclusion-statement-guidelines.pdf. Published 2015. Accessed February 15, 2019.
6. The Denver Foundation. Building inclusiveness in your mission and values. http://www.nonprofitinclusiveness.org/node/141. Published unknown. Accessed February 15, 2019.
7. Lewis J. Creating accountability for diversity: how Comerica uses diversity scorecard for executives. https://www.affirmity.com/blog/creating-accountability-for-diversity-how-comerica-uses-diversity-scorecard/ Published 2018. Accessed February 15, 2019.
8. Scully N. Leadership in nursing: the importance of recognizing inherent values and attributes to secure a positive future for the profession. Collegian. 2015;22:439–444.
9. Dyess S, Sherman RO, Pratt BA, Chiang-Hanisko L. Growing nurse leaders: their perspectives on nursing leadership and today's practice environment. Online J Issues Nurs. 2016;21(1):7.
10. Thomas P, Winter J. Management of Leadership for Nurses Administrators. 8th ed. Burlington, VA: Jones & Bartlett; 2020:135–154.
11. Randall K, Hudson M, Issacson M. Formalizing a college diversity statement. J Best Pract Health Prof Diversity. 2014;7(1):941–953.
Keywords:

diversity; diversity and inclusivity statement; inclusivity; nursing program

Supplemental Digital Content

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