Not only is the topic of equity, diversity and inclusion in itself extremely complex and sometimes difficult to understand, but there are also many terms and abbreviations used that are not always automatically obvious. To remedy this, a Diversity 101 is being created step by step on this page. During the next few months, more and more terms will be explained here, hopefully bringing more insight into this complex topic, and perhaps also encouraging reflection and discussion.
diversity (noun) the fact of many different types of things or people being included in something; a range of different things or people
This is how the Cambridge Dictionary summarises the term diversity pragmatically. But behind this word hides a wide range of different attributes, characteristics and traits that make up individuals. These include obvious aspects such as race, gender, age, disability, less obvious aspects such as socio-economic status and sexual orientation, and very elusive things such as values, beliefs, experiences and behaviour. The image of an iceberg is often chosen to visually illustrate these different dimensions. A more structured visualisation of the dimensions can be seen in a model in which the personality is in the centre and the various aspects defining an individual are grouped around it in a circle. Immediately around the centre are the seven core dimensions; the aspects of a person over which one has little or no control (e.g. gender or ethnicity).
The individual dimensions should not be seen as rigidly separate from each other; rather, there are often intersections that can lead to multiple marginalisations and specific discrimination (see intersectionality).
Promoting and living diversity means being aware of and accepting all these dimensions and contributing to make everyone feel welcome and valued and accepted as the persons they are (see belonging).
LGBTQIA+ is an evolving abbreviation for the words: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual. The terms behind the abbreviation describe a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The + (often also *) serves as a placeholder for other gender identities and is intended to include all those who do not clearly classify themselves as belonging to the above-mentioned categories. Since understanding and visualising different identities is an ongoing process, the acronym has been expanded over time: from LGB to LGBT, LGBTQ and finally to the current LGBTQIA+.
Further information on the single words within the acronym can be found e.g. at https://gaycenter.org/about/lgbtq/.
The term intersectionality is used to describe the interaction of multiple experiences of discrimination. The term was first used by the US lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw who, in analysing several dismissed discrimination claims by Black women, realised that their experiences of discrimination as Black women who were excluded from working in industrial factories, were not accepted by the court because a) they did not relate to gender, as white women were allowed to work there, and b) they did not relate to race, as Black men were also allowed to work there. These women were therefore specifically discriminated against in their existence as Black women and thus had their own experiences of discrimination that neither white women nor Black men could ever experience.
Thus, an intersectional approach recognises that people are characterised by their simultaneous belonging to several connected social categories (for example, race, gender, class) and thus have specific, marginalised experiences. Therefore, different experiences of discrimination do not work individually and can only be added together, but they influence each other and can thus create new forms of discrimination.
Belonging is a basic human need. The feeling of belonging to a group, receiving its support, affirmation and encouragement, arises, when one feels accepted by this particular group as the authentic person one is, without fear of any judgment or disadvantage. That one is allowed to bring in all aspects of their personality and be their full self also in the work context. Various analyses have shown that people who experience a strong sense of belonging at their workplace are not only more motivated and productive, but also more resilient. In contrast, the feeling of being rejected can have long-term effects on health. Another study shows that the experience of rejection, for example, can lead to an immediate drop in logical thinking by 30%. This, of course, also has an impact on performance in daily work, thinking and decision-making.
To what extend people feel that they belong is also a metric by which inclusion is measured.
A popular EDI quote on this is: Diversity is having a seat at the table; inclusion is having a voice; and belonging is having that voice be heard.
The term microaggressions was first defined in the 1970s by the psychiatrist Dr. Chester M. Pierce and refers to expressions in everyday communication that are perceived as assaultive. In the 2000s, this concept was further elaborated by the psychologist Derald Wing Su.
Microaggressions are subtle verbal and non-verbal slights, insults and humiliations, mostly against members of marginalised groups. They can appear in many ways and disguise themselves as small jokes, “harmless” comments or even compliments (for example: “You speak good German” or ” You don’t look like a homosexual”). But they always produce stereotypes and are therefore a form of discrimination that can make other people feel belittled, uncomfortable, insecure and excluded. Even though the term microaggressions might suggest that it is not a “big deal”, experiencing many such “small” individual episodes can have immense and severe effects on those experiencing them and make them feel like they do not belong.
Gender is to be understood as a socio-cultural concept and does not refer to the biological sex. So it is not about biological factors, but rather about what social ideas of typical female and typical male are and which expectations, norms and attributions are linked to it (gender roles).
Gender identity is a person’s own understanding of having a particular gender, which does not necessarily have to be the same as what one was assigned at birth. So it isn’t about social role models and expectations, but rather about one’s own self-perception of which gender one feels one belongs to. For many people, the externally assigned gender suits them and they feel that it describes them adequately: these people are termed cis* or cisgender. Besides cisgender, there is a wide spectrum of gender identity, such as trans*, genderfluid, non-binary, inter*. In our society, however, the categorisation into two genders is still common – this categorisation is also called the binary gender system. People who do not fit into the binary gender system, who are often overlooked and not thought about, or who even have to explain themselves all the time, can suffer a lot. A good start to avoid exclusion and discrimination of non-cisgender people can be the natural use of pronouns.
By the way, what is sometimes confused but has no relation to each other: gender identity is not the same as sexual orientation.
The term privilege is sometimes not easy to understand. People tend to think of privileged people as those with immense wealth and/or power, from which a wide range of opportunities and advantages arise. And this is true, it’s just that many people are not aware that they belong to this group of people. The tricky thing is that privileges are characteristically invisible to those who have them. Rather, these privileges are not recognised as such, or people think that they have earned them or that every person has access to them if only they try hard enough. The core of privileges is that they are unearned and people have access to them because they are part of a dominant group with power. Depending on which social identity groups one belongs to, one has more or less privileges. The more social identity groups one belongs to, the greater the privileges. If one belongs to one or more of these identity groups, one enjoys privileges in our western society:
- white people
- healthy people without disabilities
- heterosexual cis people
- members of the middle class or above
- people with an academic background
Of course there are more identity groups.
One privilege that many white people are not aware of is that they enjoy the privilege of not experiencing racism (see also White Privilege).
Male Gaze – in feminist film theory, this refers to a male, heterosexual and sexualising perspective on women, through which they are strongly objectified. This concept was developed in 1975 by Laura Mulvey in her essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”. She stated the theory that political and social inequalities between men and women have an impact on the cinematic representation of gender. These were characterised by the male gaze and therefore correspond to the needs of the male viewer and the ideals of patriarchy. In movies (and often still in current productions), women are primarily responsible for looking good and being decorative accessories. This creates an unrealistic ideal of female beauty, reducing it purely to physical appearance; stereotypical gender roles are also reproduced and manifested.
As there are more male than female filmmakers in the film industry, the chances of a film using the male gaze are very high; however, female filmmakers also reproduce it.
An example of how the same character can be portrayed from a male or female point of view is Harley Quinn. In “Suicide Squad” (male director), Harley is not a person by herself, but the Joker’s partner, whose mostly barely clothed body is highlighted. In “Birds of Prey” (female director), the focus shifts from her body to her personality.
It should be critically noted that the theory of the male gaze only contains a heteronormative perspective and is based on a binary system of gender.
Portrayals of men in film and, specifically, how a “real man” should look and behave, can (and should) of course also be criticised. However, as this reflects the view of male film-makers on their own gender, it does not belong to male gaze within the meaning of the term.
Patriarchy refers to a social structure whose values, norms and patterns of behaviour are shaped and controlled by men, thus benefiting them. The roots of patriarchy lie around 12,000 years before our time, when the largely egalitarian nomadic hunter-gatherer groups disappeared with the settlement. The position of women was successively weakened by the new reality of life: they were primarily responsible for housework and field work and therefore tied to the home. Men, on the other hand, built the houses and took care of the animals: the capital. With the Neolithic Revolution, the concept of property emerged for the first time; a radical change in the reality of life. The existence of property also created the need to protect it from the desires of others, often by force. These conflicts, which were led by men, gave them more power and a higher status in society. Gender began to play a role for the first time and manifested itself over time in the cultural invention of the “weaker sex”: this legitimised the increasing exclusion of women from public spheres, from positions of power and from education. A lack of education and visibility resulted in them being seen as even more worthless, which once again legitimised the denied access: a vicious circle that has continued to some extent into our modern times.
It is often claimed that we now live in a society in which women have the same opportunities as men and that there is no structural discrimination. However, if you take a closer look, it becomes clear that women earned 18% less per hour than men on average in 2022 (adjusted gender pay gap 7%), only 28% of professorships were held by women in 2022 (leaky pipeline) and women spend an average of 52.4% more time per day on care work (gender care gap).
The term ally refers to the active support of individuals or groups who advocate for and solidarise with marginalised groups. Allies work to understand, address and remove systemic barriers that others face, such as discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation or other identities. Allyship involves listening, learning and using one’s privilege to empower the voices of marginalised groups.
Allies are characterised by the fact that they are not members of the marginalised group they support; for example, heterosexual people who advocate for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.