Self-Identification at Harvard

Harvard University invites you to share your demographic information. In conjunction with the University’s equity, diversity, and inclusion goals, we are exploring additional demographic categories, for example additional race/ethnicity categories.  We hope to offer additional options in the near future to better reflect, include, and count all identities.

You can get answers to questions about the following specific identities and identification options:

All Harvard employees are invited to self-identify at any time via PeopleSoft (Self Service>My Self-Service>My Personal Details).

Visit Harvard's Affirmative Action Programs page to learn more, or see answers to common questions about self-identification below. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Self-Identification

What is self-identification?

The government defines self-identification categories, and they include: gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and veteran status.

Although the options to choose from within these categories may not adequately reflect each person’s identities, the University is required by federal law to use the government-defined categories for reporting purposes.

We invite you to update your information online in PeopleSoft Self Service>My Self-Service> Personal Details at any time.

Why is self-identification important?

By voluntarily providing certain data, you are helping to inform priorities, practices, and policies, as well as supporting the measurement of the University’s progress towards its goal of fostering a campus culture of inclusion where everyone can thrive. We hope you will assist us in our efforts. 

You are also helping us fulfill our duties as a federal contractor, since, as a federal contractor, Harvard is required to maintain certain aggregate data about the demographic composition of our workforce.

Do I have to self-identify?

As a federal contractor, Harvard is required to maintain records on the gender, race, and ethnicity of each employee.  

In keeping with federal agency guidance, we strongly encourage employees to self-identify, since this is the most reliable method and the preferred method for compiling information about a person’s gender, race and ethnicity. Supplying this information is voluntary and supplying it (or declining to supply it) will not negatively impact you individually. 

The University welcomes your participation in order to more accurately assess progress towards diversity and inclusion goals and the impact of recruiting, hiring, and retention efforts.  

See OFCCP guidance for additional information on obtaining demographic information.

Can my self-ID information be used in making employment decisions?

No, this is prohibited by law. Your self-identification information will be kept confidential and is protected in accordance with applicable laws and will not be used as a basis for any employment decision affecting you.

Do I have to self-identify again if I’ve already done so before?

Even if you have self-identified your demographic information previously, either as an applicant or as a faculty or staff member, please take a moment to review and update your information in the employee self-service page in PeopleSoft. Doing so ensures that information is up-to-date and accurate.

What if the categories listed do not describe how I identify?

The government defines the self-identification categories of gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and veteran status, which the University is required by federal law to maintain.  

We recognize that the government-defined options to choose from within these categories are imperfect and may not reflect each person’s identity. The terms used to describe identity and the categories offered will continue to change over time. For now, government reporting requires information on gender, race, and ethnicity—even though not everyone will agree with the questions or the available categories. 

In conjunction with the University’s equity, diversity, and inclusion goals, we are exploring additional demographic categories, for example additional race/ethnicity categories and other options. We hope to offer these options in the future to better reflect, include, and represent all identities.

Feel free to contact us for additional assistance.

What is the University doing to expand the categories and identities?

In collaboration with the Office for Gender Equity, Harvard Human Resources, community working groups, and EDIB leaders across campus, OEDIB continues to explore and evaluate our demographic categories and identities to enhance our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Why is Harvard asking me to self-identify my demographic information?

Harvard uses data from the self-identification surveys to comply with a number of requirements and regulations. The U.S. Department of Education mandates that institutions of higher education that receive federal assistance collect and report gender and race and ethnicity data using specific race and ethnicity categories for employees and students. Similarly, the Department of Labor requires federal contractors such as the University to collect data on gender, race and ethnicity, disability, and veteran status.

Additionally, the ability to collect and report accurate demographic data about our community is critical to our diversity and inclusion goals. The ability to collect and review accurate equity and diversity on campus will help us develop more refined and localized inclusion and belonging efforts at schools and units across campus.



Where will this information be stored and who will have access?

Employee demographic information is stored in the University’s payroll/personnel system of record and is classified as sensitive data.  Only certain members with specialized access will be able to view and use this restricted data for compliance, diversity, development, and metric related business purposes.

How will Harvard use my data?

Other than pronouns and prefixes, all other self-identification information you provide is handled as Level 3 “Harvard Confidential Information” according to the University’s Information Security Policy. 

The information you provide is kept confidential and may only be used in keeping with applicable laws and regulations, including those that require the information to be summarized and reported to the federal government for civil rights enforcement. 

When reported to the government, data will be indicated in aggregate form.

Prefix information (Level 1 Public Information) has been available in Harvard's directory, but there are new nonbinary options available. Again, sharing prefix information is optional.
Pronouns (Level 2 - Confidential Information that may be shared only within the Harvard community ) if entered  will be made visible in select HR systems and broadly to community members via the Harvard University Internal Directory (Harvard Key required).     

How can employees update their gender (or “gender marker”)?

Harvard University uses the term “gender marker” to refer to gender and offers employees three options for that field: Female, Male, and Nonbinary.

Employees may update gender marker information by logging into PeopleSoft Self Service>My Self-Service>MyPersonal Details>, and selecting “Gender Identity”.