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Diversity and Inclusion Glossary: 14 Workplace Terms to Know

Diversity and inclusion get a lot of buzz when it comes to human resources, hiring, and equity in the workplace.

It makes sense. Now more than ever, there’s a diverse population of people who make up the workforce. And it’s not just race or ethnicity. Age, gender, sexual orientation, and many other factors are part of the conversation around diversity and inclusion.

Understanding diversity and inclusion will help you comply with state and federal laws. But it’s just as important to understand these terms to build your brand, hire great people, and create a united workforce to help you serve your customers or clients and achieve your goals.

That’s why we’ve put together a glossary of terms on diversity and inclusion. This isn’t a comprehensive list of terms by far. It’s a start. It’s also crucial to understand each workplace and company is different. Each organization needs to come together to define what diversity means to them. 

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Diversity and Inclusion Glossary of Terms

1. Affinity Bias
The inclination to associate with people who look and seem most like you. By only connecting with others who are similar to you, you lose out on unique perspectives and outlooks. Not only that, but if companies don’t acknowledge affinity bias they increase the risk of employees feeling isolated and disconnected. 

2. Ally
An ally plays a critical role in helping underrepresented and marginalized groups. This can include any group based on age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, education, etc.

3. Cisgender or Cis
Cisgender is the term for people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.

4. Corporate social responsibility
Corporate social responsibility is important to a growing number of job seekers and candidates. Are you a profit-only driven organization, or do you give back in some way? Corporate social responsibility represents your efforts to make a difference in your community and society.

5. Emotional tax
This can be hard to measure, but emotional tax represents the challenge of an individual trying to perform at work, while trying to manage potential biases tied to their gender, race, ethnicity, age, etc. Emotional tax can hurt businesses, as employees can’t perform to their highest abilities. Usually, individuals feel the need to protect themselves and often feel “on guard.” 

6. Equality
Are you an Equal Opportunity Employer? To start, equality means employees are given equal opportunity and equal pay. Equality in the workplace starts with pledging to not discriminate against employees or candidates based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, and other factors. But it’s also important to understand, not everybody arrives with the same background, training, or opportunities as others. 

7. Equity
Start from equality. Then develop a plan to help the people or groups in your organization that face challenges, barriers, or disadvantages, to create fairness in the workplace and level the playing field.

8. Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is when a person suffers from a recurrent internalized concern of being exposed as an imposter or a fraud. They have persistent doubt over their accomplishments and a constant feeling of not deserving of their job. “Imposter syndrome can hit underrepresented groups harder,” according to Forbes.

9. Intersectionality
It’s the unique combination of gender, race, ethnic background, social status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other factors that create and influence your experiences, both positive and negative.

10. Neurodiversity
It’s the way your brain is wired. Believe it or not, not everybody thinks the same way as you. There are different learning styles, different ways of communicating, some learned behaviors, and some innate. There are neurological differences between people for many different reasons. And it’s important to recognize these differences to develop a diverse workforce.

11. Non-Binary
Not everyone fits into the category of “male” or “female” and that is where non-binary comes in. Someone who defines themselves as non-binary may be changing genders, doesn’t identify with any specific gender, or identifies themselves as a mix of male and female. What’s critical to recognize here is to ask individuals how they want to be referred to. Don’t just assume anyone's gender or identity. Be respectful and ask. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, “Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender, and more. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing – but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female.” 

12. Unconscious Bias
You might not even know it’s there—that’s the whole point with unconscious bias. It’s all the factors that influence the way you see the world. You may have incomplete, inaccurate, or mistaken beliefs based on your own experiences. For more information on how to test yourself on your hidden biases, Teaching Tolerance has a great resource on evaluating your biases and what to do about your prejudices. 

13. Work-Life Effectiveness
Are you leveraging the skills and talents of your workforce in the best way possible? Taking a closer look at diversity and inclusion may have you rethink policies and procedures to improve productivity, flexibility, and create mutually beneficial solutions for your entire workforce.

14. Workplace Inclusion
Consider this your ideal for diversity and inclusion. The goal: Create a work environment where all employees feel heard, valued, recognized, contribute to the success of your organization, and have equal opportunities for growth.

Create your own diversity and inclusion glossary
Every workplace is a little different based on demographics, industry, location, and other factors. Take a closer look at your employee population and create your own glossary of terms to promote diversity and inclusion and build a better workforce.

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