Diversity and inclusion language: be in the know! (Part 1)

Diversity and inclusion language: be in the know! (Part 1)

Business, Human Resources

Author: David King, learning and development activist and ally journey participant

Language is powerful. When used well, it helps to form bonds. When used carelessly, it can create division. To create a truly inclusive work culture, the everyday language we use needs to ensure that everyone within a business feels welcome.

It is easy to forget just how important language is. Words allow us to communicate with our colleagues, to understand complex problems and to think.

In short, language is extraordinarily powerful. On the other hand, it can be incredibly destructive – particularly when used toward people who have historically been discriminated against. One misplaced word can lead to the negative continuation of stereotypes. A lack of understanding risks tearing apart any organisational progress made towards inclusivity.

If we want to empower everyone within a business and create a truly inclusive workplace, we need to be aware of the vocabulary we use.

Let’s begin by unpacking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, often referred to as DEIB.

Defining each term ensures that there is clarity of meaning and understanding, instead of a list of words.

Diversity: Widely varied. In the sense of a diverse population, people are from a range of backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures (this is the easy part!).

Equity: Working toward fair outcomes for people or groups by treating them in ways that address their unique advantages or barriers.

Inclusion: The act of creating involvement, environments and empowerment in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate with equal access to opportunities and resources embrace differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.

Belonging: Belongingness is the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, or a sports team, humans have an inherent desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves. The motive to belong is the need for strong, stable relationships with other people.

Grasp these and you can then begin your never-ending journey of growth. Misinterpret these, and you will flip flop around, in a haze of confusion…

We learn and remember best via storytelling, so here’s a story/analogy which helped me to better understand:

Diversity is like being asked to a dance. Inclusion is being invited to dance. Equity is playing your song to dance to. Belonging is dancing to your own tune, free of worrying what others think and celebrated and encouraged by others at the dance (feeling ‘at home’).

So, it starts with you. To better understand, we need to explore and be curious, which may be uncomfortable. Beware…it may be messy and life changing to have to unlearn and relearn!

If you have an HR query, particularly in the diversity and inclusion space, then we’d love to help. Email our HR department today on [email protected].