Diversity, Inclusion and Equity - What do they really mean?

Diversity, Inclusion and Equity aren’t brand-new issues; these have managed to persevere through decades! However, their meanings have changed over time. Traditionally, the issue was considered equivalent to “social responsibility” and relevant only to the “social performance” of a company. It promoted a passive approach to diversity, that of being blind to individual differences. However, now it encourages acknowledging, celebrating and leveraging differences among people and it is accepted to be critical to a company’s overall business strategy and health.

Diversity, Inclusion and Equity- What is the difference?

Diversity implies a mix of differences within a setting. It may refer to individual differences (e.g. personality) or group-social differences (e.g. social status). Differences can take several forms- a diverse workplace may entail dissimilar identities, or it may broadly indicate a diversity of thought, opinions, experiences (or even just clothing!) The “diversity” that is most commonly referred to in the media recently has to do with underrepresented races, genders, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, nationalities, age, etc. These protected classes are often discriminated against in the workplace and often lack the opportunities & resources readily available to their more privileged counterparts.

Meg Bolger, a social justice facilitator and DIE expert, discussed the meaninglessness of the phrase: “diverse candidate”; a group, organization or a community can be diverse but not an individual! It is usually only a polite, indirect way of referring to a candidate that belongs to one or more minority groups.

On the other hand, inclusion refers to the active, intentional and ongoing engagement with diversity, in order to increase people’s awareness, knowledge, and understanding of and empathy towards others who differ from them in any way. In other words, inclusion is tied with people being and feeling welcomed, valued and included in an environment.

Note that diversity doesn’t necessitate inclusion; it is possible to have a diverse team with some people not feeling as accepted or significant as others.

This brings us to our next concept- Equity. It implies ensuring that everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources and that no one is discriminated against. It requires an organization’s ongoing engagement to ensure that those belonging to disadvantaged groups feel equally included, have identical opportunities to grow and receive the same rewards as others.

Although the three concepts differ from each other and one doesn’t guarantee the other, they all go hand in hand and each of them are crucial to many business and workforce outcomes. To be at the top, a modern day organization must approach “unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation”!

– Kanchee Desai