So we're writing a big grant proposal with about 10 PIs. My supervisor is the lead PI. In our small group meeting going through the proposal, once we got to the diversity section my PI suggested that I should do it (I'm female). He's also emailed the only two female PIs on the project for their suggestions / previous iterations of this section.

Is it the norm to ask women to contribute the sections related to diversity? I sort of thought the opposite would be, if anything (we aren't necessarily equally empowered to fix it, nor should that be our exclusive responsibility, and it already wastes random chunks of time/energy). But I can also see how we could be more qualified or it could be empowering ("setting expectations" and/or deciding how to allocate a big chunk of money). I am sure that my PI is doing this with this kind of intention in mind, as he has been nothing but benevolent and supportive.

I feel like I'm going to have to do a lit review on effective spending for promoting equity, so in that sense I'm not sure that I am more qualified for this than anyone else would have been. I've certainly run into problems of this type in my career but the things that stick out most from my personal experience were out-and-out sexual harassment which seems like just a very low bar, beyond the scope here. And unfortunate to have to reflect on... I realize another option here may be to do the minimum as this is likely not critical to the success of our grant proposal, so that's another reasonable piece of advice or possible norm to consider.

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    Out of curiosity, what field are you in? I generally find the approach to diversity statements varies quite a bit with discipline. Some treat it as practically inconsequential boilerplate and typically put roughly the same thing in every proposal, tweaking slightly to match the demographic makeup of the research team, while others take it a lot more seriously. Commented May 4, 2023 at 9:17

1 Answer 1


No, it's not appropriate to turn to whoever you see as "most diverse" around you, be that based on their gender or race or anything else, and saddle them with the responsibility of writing the diversity section.

In my experience, for all of the "administrative" grant sections, co-PIs pool their historical knowledge of what previous successful submissions have used, and generally the people with the most history of successful grants have the most input (possibly weighted more towards recent history, as expectations are constantly shifting). Also helpful if they have had experience on review committees for that funding organization and know how/if the sections will contribute to the score. Specific tasks may be delegated among the group or one person may mostly take the lead. There are many possible ways to do it that are just fine; the mechanism you've encountered is not.

Hopefully the other female PIs who were contacted will stand up for you, but if not I would do your best to politely inform your advisor that it's more appropriate for someone to write this section who has written them before. You might also want to convey somehow that honoring commitments to diversity is everyone's responsibility, but explaining that isn't really your job, either. I'm sorry about the position this has put you in.

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    Helpful answer (+1). I find it amusing to hear individuals being described as "more diverse" than others, since there is no such thing with respect to an individual --- whatever one's demographics and characteristics, each person is 100% those things and 0% other contradictory things.
    – Ben
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 11:40

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