Diversity vs. Inclusion: Why Terminology Matters

Here at The HR Source we pride ourselves on having a diverse workforce as well as a flourishing inclusive workplace culture. We have taken time to cultivate BOTH diversity and inclusion in our work environment. While the two words are often used interchangeably, it’s important to note that there is a very tangible distinction between the two, and that both are required for a workplace to flourish.

In our DIVERSOLOGY – Building an Inclusive Workplace Culture workshop, we define diversity as:

“Otherness … those human qualities that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet present in other individuals and groups.”

Diversity is a noun, a state of being. It is the ways in which we showcase our individuality and variance, and it is a thing to be celebrated. Depending on the environments, trades, or communities in which people work throughout their lifetimes, their diverse state may fluctuate given the relative makeup of the spaces and groups with which they engage.

Inclusion on the other hand, is verbal; it’s a feeling. Inclusion is something that needs to be cultivated, grown, and nurtured, and is an ongoing process that must be decided on every day.

In our DIVERSOLOGY – Building an Inclusive Workplace Culture workshop, we define inclusion as:

“A practice of ensuring that through their work in organizations, people feel they belong, are engaged, valued, and connected to the goals and objectives of the organization.”

Inclusion is not something that can be determined for someone else. It is up to the individual to decide when they feel included or excluded in a space. Inclusion is a very personal journey that requires individualistic approaches from each organization. It is also important to note that one does not need to be “diverse” in their place of work to feel either included or excluded. Both are feelings that all can empathize with.

While it may seem as though we are delving into details, it is critical that an organization have a clear understanding of definitions and terminology before engaging on topics of diversity and inclusion. Terminology provides the lens through which we see the world and treat each other. Having a strong foundation and agreement on the words we use to engage with difficult topics can ground us in a sense of unity and understanding.

TL;DR: Diversity is all the ways in which we are different, and inclusion is all the ways in which we can bring those differences together.

Rosalie Banner is the Operations Coordinator for The HR Source.

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