An HR Glossary for HR Terms
Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
What is Diversity?
Overview of Diversity
Diversity is any characteristic, dimension, or view that can be used to differentiate groups of people. Diversity can range from things that make us unique, like physical abilities, to things that shape how we view the world, like culture, race, gender, or beliefs. In modern conversations, diversity is often mentioned in the context of embracing a broad range of experiences and accepting that differences don’t mean someone or something is inferior.
Diversity is often used in parallel with the terms equity and inclusion. Used in conjunction with the terms diversity and inclusion, equity means recognizing that not everyone starts from the same place and that we can make accommodations to help account for imbalances. Inclusion, as it relates to diversity and equity, refers to a sense of belonging created by a safe and welcoming environment. In a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, everyone has access to opportunities—to safely speak, disagree, and contribute—as well as resources they may otherwise be excluded from, especially by circumstances they can’t control.
Why Is Diversity Important?
Diversity in the workplace means companies hire, promote, and include people with diverse characteristics, worldviews, job functions, and experiences. Diverse organizations go beyond checking boxes for diverse characteristics and embrace, actively accept, and include diverse viewpoints.
Sometimes diversity in the workplace gets conflated with or too focused on representation by people from different races, but this is too narrow a view of workplace diversity. And it can end up doing a disservice to a company’s diversity efforts if someone feels isolated because they were hired for their skin color.
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Why Is Diversity Important in the Workplace?
In the past, conversations about diversity in the workplace were more centered around compliance and focused on topics like affirmative action or Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. When discussing why diversity is important in the workplace today, companies focus on the benefits and positive impacts that diverse points of view deliver. The most important reason to have diversity in the workplace is so that everyone, regardless of their background or characteristics, will be able to feel welcome and successful at work.
There are additional reasons diversity is important in the workplace:
- Better problem-solving: Bringing in diverse perspectives helps teams be more creative, diligent, and harder working.
- Innovative in the marketplace: Companies that have more diverse leadership are often seen as more innovative within their field.
- Better financial performance: Companies with diversity among their decision makers have better financial outcomes.
- Outperform industry averages: Companies with greater diversity perform 30–35 percent better financially than their industry average.
What Are the 4 Types of Diversity?
There are many ways to observe and define diversity. But in general, diverse characteristics fall into one of the following four types of diversity.
This refers to characteristics people are born into. They are considered protected characteristics because people cannot change them. Diversity characteristics that fall into this type are age, assigned sex, cultural identity, ethnicity, gender identity, neurodiversity, national origin, physical ability, race, and sexual orientation.
These characteristics can define a person’s life, though they aren’t characteristics people are born with. External diversity characteristics can be heavily influenced by other people and can be consciously changed. Diversity characteristics that fall into this type are appearance, citizenship, education, familial status, life experiences, location, relationship status, religious beliefs, and socioeconomic status.
This generally means diversity in job functions, roles, and experiences. It’s how people differentiate themselves within an organization and department. These characteristics are typically assigned by the organization. Diversity characteristics that fall into this type include employment status, job function, management status, pay type, place of work, seniority, and union affiliation.
These characteristics are influenced by all types of experiences, including internal, external, and organizational characteristics. These inform our opinions and actions and cover a broad range of diverse viewpoints and characteristics. Diversity characteristics that fall into this type can include cultural experiences, moral compasses, outlook on life, travel experiences, and political affiliations.
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