DEI Glossary | Definitions to Support a Diverse, Equal and Inclusive Workplace

Ableism

The discrimination and/or social prejudice that devalues and limits the potential of persons with disabilities. A set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical, or psychiatric disabilities.

Accommodation

A change in the environment or in the way things are customarily done that in turn enables an individual with a disability to have equal opportunity, access, and participation.

Ageism

Ageism refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel), and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.

Ally/Allyship

A person who supports and celebrates equity-seeking groups, interrupts and challenges oppressive remarks and actions of others, and willingly explores biases within themselves. Being an ally requires action: telling colleagues that their jokes are inappropriate; advocating for the health, wellness, and acceptance of people from underrepresented or marginalized groups. An ally takes action to support people outside of their group.

Bias

Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in an unfavorable way. Unconscious bias, also known as implicit bias, is defined as attitudes and stereotypes that influence judgment, decision-making, and behavior in ways that are outside of conscious awareness and/or control.

BIPOC

An acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. The term is meant to acknowledge that not all people of color face equal levels of injustice. BIPOC is significant in recognizing that Black and Indigenous people are severely impacted by systemic racial injustices.

Cisgender 

Derived from the Latin “cis-”, meaning “on this side.” A person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth. For example, a person identified as female at birth who identifies as a woman can be said to be a cisgender woman.

Critical Race Theory (CRT)

An academic concept (originated as a legal study headed by Derrick Bell, the first permanent-appointed African-American law professor at Harvard University) that recognizes race to be not of biological origin but instead a social construct that is embedded in society as well as government, legal systems, and public policy.

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.

Discrimination

The unequal treatment of members of various groups based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, and other categories.

Diverse Abilities/Disability

Disabilities are having a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. 

Diversity

The condition of being different or having differences. Differences among people concerning age, class, ethnicity, gender, health, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, religion, physical size, education level, job and function, personality traits, and other human differences.

Diversity v. Inclusion v. Belonging

Diversity typically means proportionate representation across all dimensions of human difference. Inclusion means that everyone is included, visible, heard, and considered. Belonging means that everyone is treated and feels like a full member of the larger community, and can thrive.

Ethnicity/ Ethnic Group

A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical base.

ERG

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

Equality

Treating everyone the same way, often while assuming that everyone also starts on equal footing or with the same opportunities.

Equity/Equitable

Fair treatment for all while striving to identify and eliminate inequities and barriers.

Gaslighting

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).

Gender

A social construct of norms, behaviors, and roles that varies between societies and over time. Gender is often categorized as male, female or nonbinary.

Gender identity

One’s own internal sense of self and gender, whether that is man, woman, neither, or both. Gender identity is not outwardly visible to others.  Gender identity often aligns with the sex assigned at birth but not always. For example; transgender people, gender identity differs in varying degrees from the sex assigned at birth.

Heteronormative

Refers to social roles, structures, language, etc. that reinforce the idea that heterosexuality is the presumed norm and is superior to other sexual orientations.

Inclusion

Inclusion is an active, intentional, and continuous process to address inequities in power and privilege to build a respectful and diverse community that ensures welcoming spaces and opportunities to flourish for all. Workplace Inclusion is an atmosphere where all employees belong, contribute, and can thrive. Requires deliberate and intentional action.

Indigenous

The term ‘Indigenous’ encompasses First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, either collectively or separately, and is a preferred term in international usage, e.g., the ‘U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’  They are the descendants – according to a common definition – of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement, or other means.

Intersectionality

The intertwining of social identities such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, which can result in unique experiences, opportunities, and barriers. A theory coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to draw attention to how different systems of oppressive structures and types of discrimination interact and manifest in the lives of minorities; for example, a queer black woman may experience oppression based on her sexuality, gender, and race – and a unique experience of oppression based on how those identities intersect in her life.

Intersex

An umbrella term used to describe people with differences in reproductive anatomy, chromosomes, or hormones that don’t fit typical definitions of male and female. Intersex can refer to several natural variations, some of them laid out by InterAct. Being intersex is not the same as being nonbinary or transgender, which are terms typically related to gender identity.

Latinx

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

LGBTQ2S+

An acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Two-Spirit and additional sexual orientations and gender identities.

Marginalization

A social process by which individuals or groups are (intentionally or unintentionally) distanced from access to power and resources and constructed as insignificant, peripheral, or less valuable/privileged to a community or “mainstream” society. This term describes a social process, so as not to imply a lack of agency. Marginalized groups of people are those excluded from mainstream social, economic, cultural, or political life. Examples of marginalized groups include, but are by no means limited to, groups excluded due to race, religion, political or cultural group, age, gender, or financial status.

Microaggression

A comment or action that unconsciously or unintentionally expresses or reveals a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group, such as a racial minority. These small, common occurrences include insults, slights, stereotyping, undermining, devaluing, delegitimizing, overlooking, or excluding someone. Over time, microaggressions can isolate and alienate those on the receiving end, and affect their health and wellbeing.

Multicultural Competency

A process of learning about and becoming allies with people from other cultures, thereby broadening our understanding and ability to participate in a multicultural process. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world and an openness to learn from them.

Neurodiversity

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

Non-Binary

A term that can be used by people who do not describe themselves or their genders as fitting into the categories of man or woman. A range of terms are used to refer to these experiences; nonbinary and genderqueer are among the terms that are sometimes used.

Performative Allyship

When an individual from a majority or privileged group (white/straight/cis/abled) professes their support of and/or solidarity with a marginalized group in a way that either isn’t helpful to that group, draws attention away from that group, actively harms that group, is disingenuous, or used to distance oneself from potential scrutiny.

Privilege

An unearned, sustained advantage that comes from race, gender, sexuality, ability, socioeconomic status, age, and other differences.

QTIPOC

An acronym for Queer, Trans, and Intersex People of Colour. Queer people of colour often experience intersecting oppressions due to race, gender, sexual orientation, and other factors, including within queer and trans communities. Some literature may also use QTIBIPOC (Queer, Trans, and Intersex, Black and Indigenous People of Colour) to call attention to the specific mechanisms and impacts of oppression experienced by Black and/or Indigenous communities.

Race

A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly skin color), cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given period of time. There are no distinctive genetic characteristics that truly distinguish between groups of people. Created by Europeans (Whites), race presumes human worth and social status for the purpose of establishing and maintaining privilege and power. Race is independent of ethnicity.

Racism

A belief that racial differences produce or are associated with inherent superiority or inferiority. Racially-based prejudice, discrimination, hostility, or hatred. Institutionalized racism, also known as systemic racism, refers to forms of racism that are ingrained in society or organizations. It is when entire racial groups are discriminated against, or consistently disadvantaged, by larger social systems, practices, choices, or policies.

Sexual/Romantic Orientation

Refers to a person’s experiences of sexual and romantic attraction to other people, or to no one. People can experience their orientation(s) fluidly, and feel attraction or degrees of attraction to different genders at different points in their lives. Orientations are defined by feelings of attraction rather than behaviour.

Sex

A person’s biological status. It is typically assigned at birth, usually based on external anatomy. Sex is typically categorized as male, female or intersex.

SOGI

An acronym that stands for Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities; often used in institutional settings (i.e. health care or education). SOGI, or SOGI Minorities is used in place of LGBTQ2S+ acronyms. SOGI may be preferred as it decreases the risk of erasure since the LGBTQ2S+ acronym omits identities or terms of self-identification. SOGI as an acronym fails to capture the spectrum of romantic orientations, and intersex folk. Alternatives: SGM (Sexuality and Gender Minorities).

Transgender

An adjective used to describe someone whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth. A transgender man, for example, is someone who was assigned as female at birth but whose gender identity is male.

URM

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.

Universal Design

Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of their age, size, ability, or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. Universal design constitutes equitable access to spaces, objects, environments, and services.


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