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.
will follow soon