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Defining Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging


What does defining diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging actually entail? It’s important to know the meaning of these words on both a personal and professional level. But just defining these terms is not enough. Once you know the meaning of the words, what do you do with them? Learn them. Examine them. And then look at your own communities and organizations. Ask yourself hard questions. And then commit to the hard but incredibly meaningful and important work of changing what needs to be changed.

Defining Diversity

Diversity is what makes our organization unique. It makes our organization representative of who we serve and of the communities we sit in. Diversity disrupts the binary within long-standing structures and embraces the individuality and innovation of what could be. It intentionally reaches into overlooked and marginalized communities. Diversity gives “them” a seat at the table. It’s making room for “we.” 

Defining Equity

Equity, often misinterpreted as equality, is the act of intentionality behind resources and their impact. It is the understanding that we all require different measures to guarantee our level of success; while still recognizing that the structures built long before us will impact our route individually. Equity removes barriers and promotes persistence.

Defining Inclusion

Diversity brings you in. Equity provides you access and opportunity. Inclusion is the intentional act of involvement. Verna Myers said “ Diversity is being invited to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance.” It involves those from underserved communities into process and decision making. Diversity invites these communities into discussions to discover impact and involves them in the solution. Inclusion is sharing power and making space for other perspectives that impact all of us in the day-to-day.

the words "you belong" painted on a triangle quilt background

Defining Belonging

Belonging was most recently added to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It cannot occur without inclusion, support, or security. Belonging means feeling secure, valued, and a part of your community. Your relationships and the culture around you determine your sense of belonging. When you feel you belong, you have a greater  sense of motivation. You feel safe taking risks. You’re willing to go above and beyond. 

What Does it Mean for You?

Defining diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is one thing. We now  know what the words mean. But what does it mean for you, on a more personal level?  Think about your own organization. Consider your team structure. 

  • What do decision making processes look like? 
  • What does the feedback loop look like? 
  • Is there room for group thinking? Is there space for dissenting opinions? 
  • How are we making room for different perspectives? 
  • How do we share power?
  • Does everyone feel a sense of belonging?

If any of these questions created pause or made you raise an eyebrow, challenge that feeling. 

The impact of the challenge could inherently leave a lasting impact on us all. 

a black woman and a white woman, both wearing tie dyed rainbow t-shirts hug outside of a colorfully painted building