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Difference Between Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity vs Inclusion

If you are working with English-speaking colleagues or in an English-speaking country, you will probably hear the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” in your workplace. The two words and concepts are related but not exactly the same. This article will explain diversity and inclusion and advise you on how to use and understand them in English.

“Diversity,” pronounced /daɪˈvɜːrsəti/, has two main definitions, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:

[countable or uncountable noun, usually singular] “A range of many people or things that are very different from each other.”

“Variety” is a synonym for the above meaning of diversity. We would use “diversity” in this sense when talking about “biological diversity” or having “great/wide/rich diversity/variety.” Here is the second definition of “diversity”:

[uncountable noun] “The quality or fact including a range of many people or things.”

In an English-speaking workplace, you will most likely hear people using “diversity” in this second sense. There are many different types of diversity: racial or ethnic diversity, cultural diversity, diversity of background, religious diversity, political diversity, diversity of age, educational diversity, diversity of sexual orientation, gender diversity, and even disability diversity. Use the word in collocations such as “greater diversity,” and “[to have] diversity.” Many companies want to have as much diversity as possible.

“Inclusion,” pronounced /ɪnˈkluːʒn/, has one important definition for the comparison to diversity. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines “inclusion” as:

[uncountable noun] “The fact of including somebody/something; the fact of being included.”

To help you understand “inclusion,” we should also define “include”:

[verb] “To make somebody/something part of something.”

The opposite of include/inclusion is exclude/exclusion. If we do not make somebody part of something, he/she is excluded or not allowed to take part. In sentences, we can use “inclusion” in phrases such as: “his/her inclusion,” or “strong inclusion.” Inclusion is about valuing and respecting people for who they are.

Now let us look at the difference between diversity and inclusion. Diversity is a broad term; if you are invited to a party with other people of different race, gender, or culture from you, that party will be diverse. If you are asked to dance at that party, you are included. In other words, “Diversity is about quantity. Inclusion is about quality” (http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gpsolo_ereport/2012/june_2012/diversity_invited_party_inclusion_asked_dance.html). A big group of many different people is diverse. Five diverse people working together on one project represent inclusion.

A workplace, for example, can be diverse without having inclusion. People from many different backgrounds – different ages, sexual orientations, religions, races, genders, disabilities – working at one company make the company diverse. But if the same three people get all of the credit for the work, the company does not practice ways of inclusion.

To help you remember, use this mnemonic: “Diversity” refers to differences and “inclusion” refers to interactions helping people feel welcome.

Diversity is very important in today’s international world. Making sure that workplaces, schools, and other places have great diversity – in race, religion, gender, and more – should be a priority. People from different cultures and backgrounds all contribute to the diversity of a place.

But diversity is only the first step towards inclusion. As an ESL speaker, you may not always feel included at work if your English is not good enough to speak freely with your colleagues. The ideal company should help you with your English skills in order to foster inclusion. The company should make you feel welcome and also encourage the other employees to include you in their conversations and projects. Inclusion is about understanding people’s differences and using these differences to everyone’s advantage.

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