Opinion

Diversity Is What You See, Inclusion Is What You Do

Paolo Gaudiano Headshot

By Paolo Gaudiano

By Paolo Gaudiano

If, during a meeting with 20 people, you were to ask everyone to define the term “diversity,” you would probably get fairly consistent definitions. If you asked the same 20 people to define the term “inclusion,” you would start to see a significant amount of inconsistency and lack of clarity. If you then started to ask about terms like “belonging,” “access” and “equity,” the meeting might quickly devolve into a brawl.

In my experience, the confusion and disagreement often arise from the fact that, when we use the word “inclusion,” each of us makes subjective assumptions about what that word means and its implications. For instance, I recently participated on a panel in which one of the panelists said they did not like the concept of inclusion because “...it creates a flawed, inequitable power dynamic between the organization and the individual, and can also be seen as detrimental to diversity.” While I agree that an inequitable power dynamic is undesirable, I completely disagree with this way of defining the term, and in fact I am a firm believer that inclusion (at least in the way I define it) is essential to foster and increase diversity.

This example should make it clear that the confusion and disagreement are primarily due to the fact that language can be very imprecise in conveying meaning. But it should be equally clear that a shared vocabulary and clear metrics are essential to making progress in this space: if those of us who believe in the power of diversity and inclusion can’t agree among ourselves about such simple things as the definition of a key concept, how can we ever hope to help those who are interested in embracing more diverse, inclusive and equitable organizations, let alone change the minds of those who need to be convinced?

Read the full Forbes article.
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Paolo Gaudiano is an Adjunct Associate Professor.