Defining Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity In the Workplace
If we’re not clear on what inclusion, equity, and diversity mean, then we’ll never be clear on how to build them into our companies.
In 2020, our Camber Outdoors programming will focus on monthly educational themes. Every theme will be geared towards building equitable systems, a strong network of talent, and inclusive leadership practices. As always, our end goal is to inspire an outdoors truly for everyone. January’s theme is “Foundational Awareness.”
As a national nonprofit that supports workplace inclusion, equity, and diversity in the active-outdoor industries, we believe it’s crucial to define the terms we use every day. To show why they matter, but also to ensure all of our partners and members are on the same page as we move through the year.
Why is it important to define terms like inclusion, equity, and diversity?
More often referred to as DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion)—we’ve swapped the order around, more on this later—these terms are often used as a handle, with little consensus on what they mean and how they relate. In order to make progress in this realm, we need consistent definitions. Think of this post as a baseline you can source and refer back to time and time again.
the state of being diverse; variety.
Ask yourself: “Who is at the table?”
Diversity is relational, meaning it’s about the composition of a larger organization, not about individuals. Individuals can bring diversity to a team through their outward appearance, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or life experiences. However, no one trait makes someone more diverse than another.
There is no such thing as a “diverse” candidate; people aren’t diverse, but your candidate pool, team, and the company should be. A person may have a diverse background or bring a diverse set of skills and experience, but they aren’t themselves what’s diverse.
Why is this distinction important?
When we refer to an African American or transgender person as diverse, we’re implying that someone who’s not black or is a cis person—someone whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex—is the norm. By doing so, it can be easy to unintentionally uphold systems that discriminate in the workplace.
We’re all different and at work its about building teams that account for and celebrate those differences.
the quality of being fair and impartial.
Ask yourself: “What are the barriers to getting to and staying at the table?”
Equality and equity mean completely different things. If we try to treat everyone equally, we’ll only end up maintaining inequitable systems that are already in place. Instead, equity recognizes that different people have varied needs, experiences, and opportunities.
Equitable design in the workplace helps lift up those from less dominant and/or marginalized groups so that they have an equal opportunity to those from dominating and/or less marginalized groups. Workplace equity means each individual receives what they need for advancement to be fair.
the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.
Ask yourself: “Do all feel they belong at the table?”
Having a diverse workplace doesn’t make for an inclusive workplace. In fact, hiring for a diverse workforce will do nothing if the people you hire don’t feel valued (research shows diverse hires won’t stick around if they don’t feel included).
Workplace inclusion doesn’t just happen, it has to be designed within policies, processes, office spaces, and products. When we design for workplace inclusion, employees feel welcomed, respected, and supported, encouraging them to be their authentic selves. This is the reshaping of culture that many corporations will benefit from focusing on first and foremost.
Shifting the Order
Now that we’re of one mind about what these terms mean, we can talk about the importance of reversing the traditional order of DEI to IED. By starting with workplace inclusion, we create a culture and environment that encourages everyone to feel comfortable, making it easier to then design for equity. If inclusion and equitable systems are in place, hiring for and retaining a diverse workforce will come.
In terms of the next steps, we recommend companies hold an “IED Download,” a time to get in sync about these terms and identify ways in which each word relates to your individual organization’s vision, needs, and overall mission. Once everyone is in agreement, you can begin to design and implement your workplace inclusion, equity, and diversity strategy. The end goal is to answer every work-related question through the lens of IED, disrupting the status quo and setting new standards to attract fresh talent, audiences, and consumers.
There are plenty of other terms related to inclusion, equity, and diversity work. The University of Washington has a fantastic glossary worth familiarizing yourself with.