Top 20 Terms to Add to Your Diversity Dictionary

Terms to know to lead like an ally on diversity

Diversity is a candid conversation. It takes bravery and courage, and you do not have to do it alone.  To start the conversation, language is needed to accelerate the dialogue.

Clients regularly ask me, “what can I do to show I am an ally?”  Allyship is in the eye of the beholder, and it is a journey, not a destination.  Learning is a key part of that journey.  Education on diversity, equity, and inclusion has a high correlation to lower discrimination and higher inclusion.  Oftentimes, we have to unlearn things we thought to be true based on our non-inclusive upbringings, education, and the systems that reinforce patriarchy and white supremacy.

We need to meet our allies where they are at.  To facilitate this, familiarize yourself with these terms and share them with your allies, especially those that do not see themselves as “diverse.”

  • Diversity: Different groups of people (i.e. gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, abilities)
  • Inclusion: A sense of belonging for diverse groups of people
  • Majority group: The group that generally holds the largest amount of power in society and in workplaces (i.e. white, straight, male, cisgender, able-bodied)
  • Underrepresented groups: The groups that fall outside of the majority group by one or more factors (non-white, LGBTQ+, female, gender non-binary, disability)
  • Intersectionality: The intersection of more than one marker of diversity (i.e. race + gender, disability + gay)
  • Gender non-binary: A category for those that identify outside of the masculine or feminine gender boxes (synonym: gender-neutral)
  • Cisgender: A category for those that identify their gender with the gender or sex they were assigned at birth
  • LGBTQ+: An acronym that represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and those that identify with other markers of difference in sexual orientation and/or gender
  • People of color: People that identify as non-white

  • White fragility: White people’s aversion to talking about race or apathy towards racism’s existence
  • White supremacy: The belief that the white race is superior to other races
  • Disabilities: Physical or non-physical differences from the majority group (i.e. mental health, limited mobility, visually impaired)
  • Privilege: The advantages one has over others based on their associations with the majority group (i.e. white, straight, male, cisgender, able-bodied)
  • Ally: One that leverages their privilege to help others that are underrepresented (i.e. mentor, sponsor, advocate, coach, challenger)
  • Unconscious bias: The beliefs that one holds that they are often unaware about those that are underrepresented
  • Mansplaining: Traditional male behavior that minimizes women by over or underexplaining something based on assumptions about gender
  • Whitesplaining: Traditional white behavior that minimizes people of color by assuming they know what it means to be a person of color
  • Bropropriations: Traditional male behavior that limits the power of women (i.e. interruptions, taking credit for ideas, mansplaining)
  • Gender equality: The belief that all genders of humans are equal and should be treated equally
  • Benevolent sexism: Well-intended behavior that limit women’s advancement (i.e. travel, promotions, caregiving responsibilities)

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a hot topic in Corporate America.  Yet, no organization is fully where they want to be.  Progress has been stagnant and even declining in women and people of color representation in leadership roles, pay equity, and unemployment statistics.  It is often an education problem.

This is a great first step in your education.  Consider reading a book about diversity (White Fragility, I’m Still Here, or Inclusify), listening to a podcast (Seeing White, The Will to Change, or Next Pivot Point), or taking our challenge to interview someone different than yourself about diversity.

Curious to learn more? 

Check out my latest interviews with diversity, equity, and inclusion experts on the Next Pivot Point podcast, take our free team diversity and inclusion assessment, and schedule time with Julie to talk live about ideas.