DEI Glossary

This glossary is not an exhaustive list of every word and term used in our conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The intent is to provide guidance for open discussion. In recognition of the way language works, especially around these concepts, many of the words and terms will continue to evolve.

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A set of stereotypes and practices that devalue and discriminate against people with disabilities. It assumes that the bodies and minds of non-disabled people are the “default,” placing value on them based on society’s perceptions of what’s considered “normal.”
Source: Disability and Philanthropy Forum

A person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. 
Source: NC State University

When age is used to categorize and divide people in ways that lead to harm, disadvantage, and injustice. It can take many forms including prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory acts, and institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs.
Source: World Health Organization


Behavioral diversity
Acknowledgement and acceptance of different and varied behavior patterns, between different populations, within same population, as well as the variations exhibited between individuals.
Source: National Library of Medicine; National Center for Biotechnology Information

The feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. 
Source: Cornel University

A tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly.
Source: The Britannica Dictionary

Brave space
A space where, inclusive to all races, sexes, genders, abilities, socio-economic status, and lived experiences, participants feel comfortable and have an expectation of learning, sharing, and growing. Everyone in the space acknowledges that discomfort due to the discussion of difficult topics is expected but that all participants will honor each other’s experiences and opinions by showing respect to achieve a place of understanding. 
Source: Roosevelt Union Free School District


Chief Diversity Officer
Executive level officer responsible for guiding efforts to conceptualize, define, asses, nurture and cultivate diversity throughout organization, implementing diversity and inclusion strategy throughout entire organization.
Source: Duke University School of Medicine

Adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance, behavior, and expression in ways that will optimize the comfort of others in exchange for fair treatment. The behavior of code-switching is deemed necessary for advancement, but takes a great psychological and often physical toll on the individual doing the code-switching.
Source: Harvard Business Review

Cognitive diversity
The differences in perspective or information processing styles, not predicted by factors such as gender, ethnicity, or age, with which individuals think about and engage with new, uncertain, and complex situations.
Source: Harvard Business Review

Corporate Culture
Set of shared values, attitudes, standards and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define the nature of the organization; both inside the organization, in how members treat and intact with one another, and outside the organization in how members interact with individuals and groups who are not a part of the organization.

Cultural sensitivity training
Training which raises awareness of the nuances of cross-culture communication, etiquette, values, and the importance of words, actions, gestures and body language in cultivating relationships with people and groups with different backgrounds.
Source: Combination of definitions from Traliant and Senior Executive

Corporate social responsibility
A business model by which companies and organizations; make a genuine and concerted effort to operate in ways that enhance society and the environment, measure the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society, including social, economic, and environmental, and are held accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.
Source: Investopedia


An impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these, that substantially affects a person's life activities This may include people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. 
Source: Combination of definitions from Pacific University and the Americans with Disability Act National Network

The unequal treatment of members of various groups, based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favors one group over others on differences of race, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, language, age, national identity, religion and other categories.
Source: College of Washington at the University of Washington 

Diverse candidate pipeline
A proactively created, pool of candidates who come from many different communities, identities, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, cultures, and beliefs, who are qualified and ready to fill positions within an organization as the positions become available. 
Source: The White House’s Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce

The intentional and continual practice of bringing together people with different characteristics and experiences from a wide range of different groups; including race, ethnicity, gender, differing abilities, physical appearance, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, language, socioeconomic status, marital status, and others.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI or DE&I)
a conceptual framework that promotes the fair treatment and full participation of all people, especially in the workplace, including populations who have historically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination.  This framework may include programs, policies, strategies, and practices that execute on an organizational mission to create and sustain a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all people.
Source: Combination of definitions from and Qualtrics


EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion)
The visual manifestation of placing an emphasis on equity (equity first or leading with equity) within DEI efforts, by placing it first in the acronym. 
Source: DeEtta Jones

Emotional tax
The draining state of being consciously on guard to deal with potential bias or discrimination stemming from factors related to one’s identity.

Employee engagement
A human resources concept that describes the level of passion, enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels toward their job and the organization.  In terms of DEI, strong employee engagement is key to DEI success
Source: Combination of definitions from Investopedia and Senior Executive

Employee resource group (ERG)
An employee resource group (ERG) is a voluntary, employee-led diversity and inclusion initiative that is formally supported by an organization. ERGs generally are organized on the basis of common identities, interests, or backgrounds with the goal of supporting employees by providing opportunities to network and create a more inclusive workplace. Although affinity groups began in the 1960s when Black workers at Xerox organized to discuss race-based tension in the workplace, growing acknowledgment of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) has shined a fresh spotlight on ERGs' role in the workplace. Other names for ERGs include; business resource groups, affinity groups, inclusion resource groups or network groups.
Source: Combination of definitions from Gartner and SHRM

The intentional and continual practice of identifying and eliminating barriers that prevent the full participation of all groups in order to ensure every individual has the opportunity to join, contribute and partake.


Refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ.
Source: University of Pittsburgh


Historically underrepresented groups (HUGs)
See "underrepresented groups"


The intentional and continual practice of creating environments where individuals from any group can feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.

Intersectionality is a framework for understanding the interaction of cultures and identities held by an individual. Intersectionality explains how an individual with multiple identities that may have been marginalized can experience compounded oppression (such as racism, sexism, and classism) or how an individual can experience privilege in some areas and disadvantage in other areas. It takes into account people’s overlapping identities to understand the complexity of their life outcomes and experiences.
Source: Office of Financial Management; Washington State

Institutional racism
See "systemic racism"


The artificial performance of social behaviors and/or the hiding of a person’s authentic identity in an effort to gain social acceptance. This act can exact an emotional toll on the person performing the masking.
Source: LGBTQ and All

Minority Tax
When members of an organization are given increased responsibilities or treated differently because of their minority or underrepresented status within that organization or profession. Examples of this are: expectation that they serve on DEI committees, speak on behalf of their minority group, or being treated as a token member of the community.
Source: Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
Source: Office of Financial Management; Washington State


A viewpoint that the unique way in which different people interact with and interpret the world can bring unique perspectives and create positive outcomes for organizations and society.  Further, this viewpoint sees the many neurodevelopmental differences (variations of the human brain) as having strengths rather than seeing them as weaknesses that need to be cured.
Source: Understood, a non-profit dedicated to serving neurodiverse people


A word that refers to someone or something that is being talked about (like she, it, them, and this). Gender pronouns (like he and her) specifically refer to people that you are talking about. Pronouns are a part of someone’s gender expression, as such it is respectful to correctly use someone’s personal pronoun.
Source: Combination of definitions from University of Pittsburgh and University of Wisconsin (Madison) LGBTQ+ Resource Center


A belief that racial differences produce or are associated with inherent superiority or inferiority. Racially-based prejudice, discrimination, hostility or hatred. Institutionalized racism, also known as systemic racism, refers to forms of racism that are engrained in society or organizations. It is when entire racial groups are discriminated against, or consistently disadvantaged, by larger social systems, practices, choices or policies.
Source: Harvard University


Safe space
While the term originated with the LGBT culture, the term currently refers to places intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.
Source: Wikipedia (while it is understood that this is not a site of highest integrity of information, the definition put forth on this site is a solid one)

Structural racism  
See "systemic racism"

Supplier diversity
A business strategy that ensures a diverse supplier base in the procurement of goods and services for any business or organization.  It emphasizes the creation of a diverse supply chain that works to secure the inclusion of traditionally underrepresented or underserved groups including; small-business enterprises (SBEs), minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs), and woman-owned business enterprises (WBEs).

Systemic racism (structural racism, institutional racism)
A system in which public policies, laws, institutional practices, employment programs, cultural representations, and other norms work in various ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time.  
Source: Aspen Institute


Unconscious bias
prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair. Many researchers suggest that unconscious bias occurs automatically as the brain makes quick judgments based on past experiences and background. As a result of unconscious biases, certain people benefit and other people are penalized.
Source: Vanderbilt University

Underrepresented groups (historically underrepresented groups)
Generally made up of ethnic minorities, women and persons with disabilities who have historically faced discrimination and other obstacles that limited their opportunities for educational and economic participation and success. 
Source: Law Insider