Diversity Dictionary

The dialogue around diversity, equity, and inclusion is broad and growing daily. This introduces the need for a common vocabulary to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Because of differences in lived experience, words often hold different meanings for different people. This glossary is not meant to be exhaustive, since language is continuously evolving. The main goal is to provide a basic framework and promote dialogue.

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There are currently 94 Terms in this directory

an abbreviation that stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander

the discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or people who are perceived to have disabilities

the ability to fully participate

the degree to which a product or a service is available to as many people as possible

a description of a program, course, or activity that is easy for an individual to have access to — to be able to participate in and/or use with safety and dignity, with or without accommodations

someone who supports a group other than their own (in terms of multiple identities such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.). An ally acknowledges oppression and actively commits to reducing their own complicity, investing in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression


a form of prejudice that results from our need to quickly classify individuals into categories

a person who is obstinately devoted to their own opinions and prejudices and is intolerant of other diverse social groups


a term for people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior aligns with those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth

Closed Mindset
the use of conscious bias to narrow or limit choices and the opportunities to make different or more optimal decisions

Code Switching/Covering
a practice that inhibits the true authentic person from showing up and performing at their best; a form of assimilation or trying to fit in

Color Blind
the belief that everyone should be treated “equally” without respect to societal, economic, historical, racial, or other differences

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
a way businesses regulate themselves with the goal of being socially responsible

Cultural Appropriation
originally coined to describe the effects of colonialism, cultural appropriation generally entails adopting aspects of a minority culture by someone outside the culture, without sufficient understanding of its context or respect for the meaning and value of the original. Cultural appropriation done in a way that promotes disrespectful cultural or racial stereotypes is considered particularly harmful

Cultural Intelligence / Cultural Quotient
the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures to come up with better solutions

Culturally Appropriate Care
a healthcare approach that understands the influence of cultural values and beliefs (for the patient and provider) in health care delivery and provides care to address cultural needs

Culturally Competent Care
the ability of providers and organizations to understand and integrate factors such as race, ethnicity, language, gender, socioeconomic status, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, and occupation into the delivery and structure of the health care system


D & I Program
all of the tactical approaches used to carry out the strategy, and the resources made available to employees at every level. This might include formal D&I councils and committees, employee affinity groups, resource guides, mentoring/sponsorship programs, company-sponsored events, or any other creative D&I effort outside of training

D & I Strategy
an overall plan or approach a company may take to ensure diversity and inclusion is built into its business model. This includes staffing, operations, and its infrastructure

the active and intentional process of unlearning values, beliefs, and conceptions that have caused physical, emotional, or mental harm to people through colonization. This requires a recognition of systems of oppression

a physical or mental impairment that affects a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities

the sharing of disability status with an employer, frequently driven by the need to request a reasonable accommodation in the workplace

the unequal treatment of members of various groups, based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favors one group over others on differences of race, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, language, age, national identity, religion, and other categories

We recognize diversity as all individual characteristics that define us, going beyond demographic descriptors. Diversity is the intersection of our individual backgrounds and experiences, and the unique perspectives that we each have as a result. Almost all forms of identity that distinguish us from one another contribute to cognitive diversity. Embracing cognitive diversity – differences in thought patterns, information processing, and problem-solving – primes organizations for more innovative thinking, and, therefore, growth.

Diversity Journey Spectrum
a Diversity Crew term used to assist both organizations and individuals in evaluating their relationship to diversity. We call it a spectrum or a journey because we understand that no one is at 0 — knowing nothing about diversity, equity, and inclusion — and no one is at 10 — knowing everything and operating from a perfectly diverse and inclusive mindset. All of us are somewhere in between. Diversity Crew meets you where you are, from both an individual and an organizational perspective, and we go along on that journey with you.


Emotional Intelligence
the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions in the context of interpersonal relationships

Employee Resource Group (ERG)
abbreviation for Employee Resource Group. Typically, an employer-sponsored or –recognized affinity group of those who share the interests and concerns common to those of a particular race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation

Environmental Justice
the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies

Environmental Social Governance (ESG)
standards and criteria that socially conscious investors use to evaluate where they will invest

Equity is distinguished from equality: Equity means recognizing that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and make adjustments to imbalances. Equity means adequately solving for another person’s inequity in life and work. The process is ongoing, requiring us to identify and overcome intentional and unintentional barriers arising from bias or systemic structures.


first popularized in the 1944 movie Gas Light, it means a deliberate attempt to undermine a victim’s sense of reality or sanity. In a work context, it usually means behaviors that undermine the success, self-confidence, self-esteem or wellbeing of the target. For people in underrepresented or less powerful groups, it is more likely to occur, with more severe and harmful cumulative effects. Tactics can include withholding (critical information, meeting invitations, silent treatment), isolation (exclusion, causing conflict with coworkers), and discrediting (consistently shooting down the target’s ideas, ignoring or taking credit for them)

People tend to use the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably, however, the two terms are not equivalent. Generally, we assign a newborn’s sex as either male or female (some US states and other countries offer a third option) based on the baby’s genitalia. Once a sex is assigned, we presume the child’s gender. A person’s gender identity can correspond to or differ from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender Diversity
removing bias against individuals based on gender. While these biases are most commonly directed against women, they include but are not limited to: negative bias, benevolent bias, agentic bias, self-limiting bias, and motherhood bias

Gender Dysphoria
a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender, and the gender with which he/she/they identify

Gender Expression
the way in which a person expresses their gender identity, typically through their appearance, dress, and behavior

Gender Identity
as distinct from the term “sexual orientation,” it refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others

Gender Non-binary
A way of identifying and/or expressing oneself outside the binary gender categories of male/masculine and female/feminine

Gender Parity
The comparison of the ratio of men vs women on a given variable. For example, we could say an organization had reached “gender parity” in leadership if they had an equal number of men and women in leadership positions


the use of comments or actions that can be perceived as offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning, and unwelcome

Health at Every Size
Known by the acronym HAES, a social and health promotion movement that challenges social stigma based on weight, size and shape. The movement emphasizes body positivity, health outcomes, and eating and movement for wellbeing rather than weight control.

Health Disparities
a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social or economic disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater social and/or economic obstacles to health and/or a clean environment based on their racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, mental health, cognitive, sensory, or physical disability, sexual orientation, geographical location, or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion

Health Equity
The absence of health inequities. Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to attain their full health potential without disadvantage because of social position or other socially determined circumstances

Health Inequities/Health Inequalities
differences in health determinants and health outcomes that are the result of social and structural imbalances, and are thus avoidable and preventable

High-Risk Population
population groups that have a higher risk of a certain health outcome than the general population


Implicit Association Test
test measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about. For example, you may believe that men and women are equally associated with science, yet your automatic associations could show that you (as many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science. In addition, when you take the IAT, you will receive feedback about the strength of your implicit preference based on how much faster you respond to Flowers + Good / Insects + Bad versus Insects + Good/ Flowers + Bad (for example). As you consider your results, remember that the IAT shows biases that are not necessarily endorsed and that may even be contradictory to what one consciously believes.

Implicit Bias
negative associations that people unknowingly hold and express automatically, and that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions; also known as unconscious or hidden bias

While diversity describes an individual, inclusion is about the collective. Inclusion is creating a culture that recognizes, values, and embraces differences, and incorporates varying perspectives into the environment. Inclusion is required for another person to be their authentic selves. It is an active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity.

Institutional Inequality
the manifestation of inequality and discrimination within institutions or societies; describes the uneven distribution of resources along divisions of societal difference, such as race, ethnicity, and gender

Institutional Racism
refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes and opportunities for different groups based on racial discrimination

a social construct that recognizes the fluid diversity of identities that a person can hold, including those of gender, race, class, religion, professional status, marital status, socioeconomic status, etc.

A way of describing any attitude, action or institutional structure that oppresses a person or group because of their target group. For example, race (racism), gender (sexism), economic status (classism), age (ageism), religion (e.g., anti-Semitism), sexual orientation (heterosexism), language/immigrant status (xenophobism), etc.


used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina to describe a person of Latin American origin or descent

an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and any other non cis-gendered and straight sexualities, sexes or gender identities


Medically Underserved Areas/Populations
a designation indicating that the area or population experiences conditions that prevent access to healthcare

a small gesture of inclusion, caring or kindness. They include listening, providing comfort and support, being an ally and explicitly valuing the contributions and presence of all. It is particularly helpful for those with greater power or seniority to “model” affirming behavior

the verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, insults, or actions — whether intentional or unintentional — which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to targeted persons based solely upon discriminatory belief systems

Multicultural Competency
A process of embracing diversity and learning about people from other cultural backgrounds. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is having respect for the ways in which others live in and organize the world, and being open to learning from them


modern personal pronouns used by people whose gender lies outside of the male/female binary. Commonly seen pronouns include “ze/zir/zir,” “xe/xem/xyr,” and “ey/em/eir”

when neurological differences are recognized and respected as are any other kind of human differences or variations. These differences can include Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, and Tourette Syndrome

NHQDR (National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report)
an annual report, organized in sections, that provide an overview of the healthcare system and summarize access, quality, and disparity measures


Open Mindset
a mindset that is full of curiosity, and open to opportunities to experience things and learn from them

The systemic and pervasive nature of social 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


actions and beliefs that prioritize masculinity. Patriarchy is practiced systemically in the ways in which power is distributed in society (jobs and positions of power given to men in government, policy, criminal justice, etc.) and influences how we interact with one another interpersonally (gender expectations, sexual dynamics, space-taking, etc.)

People of Color
a collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latinx, and Native American backgrounds, as opposed to the collective “white.

Person-First Language/People-First Language
phrasing that emphasizes the individual over their condition, for example, “woman with diabetes” rather than “diabetic woman”

a preconceived judgment or preference — especially one that interferes with impartial judgment and can be rooted in stereotypes — that denies the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized

Priority Populations
population groups that are prioritized for health interventions due to significant health disparities related to demographic or environmental factors

exclusive access or access to material and immaterial resources based on the membership in a dominant social group

words to refer to a person after initially using their name. Gendered pronouns include she and he, her and him, hers and his, and herself and himself. “Preferred gender pronouns” (or PGPs) are the pronouns that people ask others to use in reference to themselves. They may be plural genderneutral pronouns such as they, them, their(s). Or, they may be ze (rather than she or he) or hir (rather than her(s) and him/his). Some people state their pronoun preferences as a form of allyship.

Psychological Safety
Inclusion is closely related to psychological safety. To establish psychological safety is to create an environment that allows others to be fully diverse. Psychological safety is an intentional act to create a sense of belonging regardless of another’s diversity.


an umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society’s view of gender or sexuality. The definitional indeterminacy of the word Queer — its elasticity — is one of its characteristics: “a zone of possibilities”


A socially constructed system of categorizing humans, largely based on observable physical features (phenotypes) such as skin color, and ancestry. There is no scientific basis for nor discernible distinction between racial categories

Racial/Ethnic Minorities and Minority Populations
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines racial and ethnic minorities as American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.

the systemic oppression of one racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another. Comes in four forms — Internalized, Interpersonal, Institutional, and Structural

Reasonable Accommodation
a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or hiring process. The goal is to provide equal access to all individuals

the ability to see people like yourself represented in positions of authority


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

Sexual Orientation
A person's identity in relation to the gender or genders to which they are sexually attracted — the fact of being heterosexual, homosexual, etc. It’s important to think of this as a spectrum, and something that may change

Social Determinants of Health
The conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, and the systems put in place to deal with illness. These circumstances are in turn shaped by a wider set of forces, including the physical environment, economics, social policies, resources, and politics.

Social Justice
A form of activism, based on principles of equity and inclusion, that encompasses a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable, and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency, as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others.

A form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions; a product of processes of categorization that can result in prejudiced attitudes, critical judgments, and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Stereotypes are typically negative, based on little information, and do not recognize individualism and personal agency.

Structural Inequality
Systemic disadvantage(s) of one social group compared to other groups, rooted and perpetuated through discriminatory practices (conscious or unconscious) that are reinforced through institutions, ideologies, representations, policies/laws, and practices. When this kind of inequality is related to racial/ethnic discrimination, it is referred to as systemic or structural racism.

a feeling of sorrow, pity, or compassion for another person

System of Oppression
Conscious and unconscious, non-random and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, discrimination, prejudice, and other forms of unequal treatment that impact different groups. Sometimes used to refer to systemic racism.

System-Thinking Approach
An approach to social change acknowledging that the relationships between problems and solutions are complex, indirect, and circular. The recognition that interventions can interact with one another to cause unpredicted outcomes, and that people with good intentions unknowingly create and maintain these systems of inequity.


Targeted Universalism
a intent to create belonging for all, where universal goals are set and pursued by targeted processes to achieve those goals

Universal and purely neutral. When people encounter it, they infer nothing about gender. This makes the singular “they” a perfect pronoun.

Performative presence without meaningful participation. For example, a superficial invitation for the participation of members of a certain socially oppressed group, who are expected to speak for the whole group without giving this person a real opportunity to speak for themselves

an umbrella term used to describe a person whose gender identity is something other than their Sex Assigned at Birth (SAAB). The SAAB is a person’s first association with gender, typically based on physical sex characteristics.


United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
17 integrated global goals which define the world we want. They are the heart of the United Nations Agenda for 2030, an ambitious roadmap to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet

Universal Design
the process of creating products, services, and presentations that are accessible to people with a wide range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics

an abbreviation for Under-Represented Minorities. Some institutions have defined sub-groups within larger racial/ethnic minority groups that are particularly under-represented relative to their size. For example, in a given field, Mexican-Americans may be an under-represented minority, even if Hispanic people are otherwise proportionately represented


Vulnerable Populations
populations who are at greater risk of experiencing poor health outcomes due to social and economic factors, such as place of residence, income, current health status, age, race/ethnicity, and distribution of wealth and resources


White Supremacy
a power system structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as white — whether consciously or subconsciously determined — and who feel superior to those of other racial/ethnic identities