Definitions of Key Terms
Terms around this theme are highly contested as each term is understood, used and actioned in different ways depending on the way it is being interpreted. For example, the terms ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ represent two strategies that we can use in an effort to produce fairness. However, their uses have very different consequences.
Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Equity may appear to be unfair, but it actively moves everyone closer to success by what some organisations refer to as “leveling the playing field” with others advocating that it is about more resources going to those who need it the most.
Diversity refers to demographic differences of a group – often at the team or organisational level. Some types of diversity are also protected characteristics by law e.g. in the UK this includes: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, ‘race’ religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The term ‘diversity’ is contested as it can individuate experience, conceal inequalities and neutralise histories of antagonism and struggle. To overcome these risks, critics encourage an exploration of questions such as: how does ‘diversity’ work in any given context, what counts as diversity, who does ‘diversity’ work, and who is seen to ‘embody diversity’? In other words, rather than trying to ask ‘what is diversity?’ ask ‘how is it being (or not) integrated into organisations’ (Ahmed, 2006)? Often in practice, there is a gap between symbolic commitments or virtue signalling to diversity and the actual lived experience of those who ‘embody diversity’. Commitments to diversity can end up being "performative" in that they do not bring about what they name.
At the same time as needing to create the conditions for all to participate in and move toward ‘success’, we also need to recognise our differences as unique, and that there is no one definition of “success.” By upholding just one definition of success, we actively erase our differences. Our differences are not the obstacles, but rather - like the biodiversity of a healthy soil biome - each difference plays a necessary and critical piece in a tapestry that together forms the wider ecology of human and non-human life, without which we become (non-resilient) monocultures.
Inclusion is commonly defined as the extent to which everyone at work, regardless of their background, identity or circumstance, feels valued, accepted and supported to succeed at work. When practicing ‘inclusion’, it is important to be aware that those people representing ‘difference’ are not pressured nor forced to assimilate into a dominant culture or system that marginalises them in order to be ‘included’. Rather, for inclusion in the learning spaces (organisations, networks, groups) to be meaningful, the culture and system must accommodate everyone represented, including needs, values and goals and sense of safety.
Dismantling barriers to resources and opportunities in society so that all individuals and communities can live a full and dignified life.
intersectionality is the concept that all oppression is linked. More explicitly, the Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”. Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc. First coined by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw back in 1989.
All of us have our own role and responsibility to take in ending harm. Community/group based solutions to harm require that we all step up and think about the ways we may have contributed to harm, the ways we may need to acknowledge and make amends for our contribution to harm, and the ways we can take action to make sure that harm does not continue and that healthy alternatives can take its place.