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Equity Diversity and Inclusion Glossary

Equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace is now, finally, recognised as a critical aspect of an organisation’s culture, performance, and people strategy, regardless of size, scope, and sector.

The many academic studies demonstrating the commercial value of ED&I through significant analysis of empirical data are well accepted as business fact. Organisations are adapting their strategy, processes, and practises to ensure that they build an inclusive workplace and employer brand that attracts diverse and underrepresented talent, and treats all staff with fairness, openness, and equity, regardless of background or personal characteristics.

What we have noticed is the evolving language and terminology that surrounds this topic, and we are mindful that business jargon can be, in itself, not particularly inclusive to those not familiar. So, we thought we’d share a glossary of the most commonly used terms and what they mean. This is not meant as a definitive guide or dictionary, rather a snapshot to help those who are interested in learning more about ED&I from a talent perspective.

Let’s start at the beginning….with ED&I:

Equity: The fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all, while eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups and/or individuals.

Diversity: All the ways in which people differ, encompassing the characteristics that make one individual or group different from another.

Inclusion: The act of creating environments in which anyone is welcomed, respected, supported, and valued so they can fully participate.

A question we are often asked is why ED&I and not DE&I or ID&E. Well, ultimately this is a matter of choice. Many individuals and organisations refer to D&I, or DE&I. Our view is that equity is at the very heart of this topic. If everyone has a ‘level playing field’ to begin with, then the barriers to creating diverse and inclusive workplaces, and indeed societies, are minimised.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, its probably easiest to list terms and words in alphabetical order:

Ageism: The discrimination against individuals because of their age, often based on stereotypes.

Ally: An individual who supports a specific group with characteristic(s) that differs from their own. An ally will acknowledge the discrimination faced by that group, and commit to learning more to strengthen their own knowledge whilst attempting to reduce their own complicity and raising awareness

Bias: A type of prejudice that results from our human desire to classify individuals into categories, and as a result of learned, active or unconscious behaviours that are seated in our upbringing, affiliations, and views, that impact our understanding, actions and decision making

Cisgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behaviour aligns with those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.

Cultural Appropriation: The non-consensual/misappropriate use of cultural elements for commodification or profit purposes – including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. – often without understanding, acknowledgment or respect for its value in the context of its original culture.

Disability: Physical or mental conditions that affect a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Most disabilities are invisible, and it is thought that up to 20% of the working age population in the UK has a disability of some form.

Discrimination: The unequal treatment of members of various groups, based on prejudice (conscious or unconscious), favouring one group over others on differences of personal characteristic or identity.

Ethnocentrism: The belief that one's own characteristic(s), group, ethnicity, or nationality is superior to any others.

Gender Identity: Distinct from the term “sexual orientation,” refers to a person’s internal sense of being their gender. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Gender Non-conforming: An individual whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.

Harassment: The use of behaviours, comments or actions that can be perceived as offensive, humiliating, demeaning and unwelcome.

Institutional Racism: Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutions, via their history, policies and practices create different outcomes and opportunities for different groups based on personal characteristics.

Intersectionality: A social construct that recognises the fluid diversity of multiple characteristics that an individual can hold, or identify with, such as gender, race, class, religion, professional status, marital status, socioeconomic status, etc.

LGBTQ+: An inclusive term for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual. The + relates to a multitude of sexual orientation that are not represented by the letters.

Microaggression: The verbal, nonverbal and behavioural slights, snubs, insults or actions, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to an individual that relates to their characteristics or belonging to a particular group.

Misogyny: the hatred or contempt for women or girls. It is a form of sexism used to keep women at a lower social status than men.

Neurodiversity: A term often used to describe a collection of developmental learning conditions that includes but is not limited to autism (and autistic spectrum conditions) ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), developmental speech disorders, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and Tourette syndrome. These conditions may be considered to be disabilities as defines by the Equality Act 2010.

Oppression: The systemic nature of inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures.

People of Colour: A collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latinx and Native American backgrounds, as opposed to the collective “White”. This term is not as widely used in the UK as it is in America.

Prejudice: A preconceived judgement or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment, that denies the right of individual members of certain groups.

Privilege: A particular advantage or right afforded only to a specific group of people, often without their own realisation because of ignorance, lack of specific education or cultural bias.

Race & Ethnicity: A social construct that divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly race), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history and ethnic classification.

Safe Space: Refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience. This term is often used during specific inclusion training but can ideally be used to include a workplace in its entirety.

Tokenism: The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of underrepresented or diverse groups in order to give the appearance of equality within a workplace or educational context.

Protected Characteristics of the Equality Act 2010: In the UK, certain characteristics are protected by law. This means that it is illegal to discriminate against anyone when, for example, hiring or providing access to services based on 9 characteristics. These are Age, Disability, Ethnicity/Race, Gender Reassignment, Marriage/Civil Partnership, Maternity & Pregnancy, Religion, Sex, and Sexuality.

We would LOVE to hear any opinions and perspectives.

We recognise that there are many other words and terms that could be included. We also acknowledge that terminology and language will continue to evolve so what is relevant today may not be relevant or indeed appropriate in the future. Have we got anything wrong, and what have we missed?

Please do let us know – feedback and learning are key aspects of inclusion.