Diversity vs. Inclusion: What’s the Difference

by Anita Jack-Davies – December 2018

Employees are often confused between the terms “diversity” and “inclusion”. What is the difference? Diversity is merely the ability to count differences amongst staff within an organization. When an organization is diverse, one can see differences on a surface level. You might be able to say, “At my organization, we have two Muslim employees, three women, five Caucasian employees and one Millennial”. In this scenario, the organization may be diverse, but it is not inclusive if all members of the senior leadership team, for example, are not reflective of the staff at the organization.

On the other hand, when an organization is inclusive, the differences that you notice amongst employees can be seen at various levels of the organization, including those with decision making power and authority. An inclusive workplace will reflect differences in race, gender, culture, perspective, management style, and so on, at senior levels of the organizations. Here is a quick overview of each term:

Diversity

  • Representation of employees in a workplace by race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, ability, age, religion, ethnicity, experience, learning styles, and so on, as a celebration of difference.
  • Hiring is done to ensure a broad representation of employees belonging to different racial and cultural groups.
  • Being invited to a party (or being hired to work at a law firm, for example).

Inclusion

  • Once the workplace achieves diversity, inclusion ensures that all employees are welcomed, nurtured and encouraged to participate in the organization, including at its senior most levels.
  • All employees sense that their presence in the workplace matters to the overall success of the organization.
  • Being asked to dance at the party (or being actively promoted, mentored, developed and motivated to perform at one’s fullest potential).

In other words, a diverse workplace reflects differences amongst employees that are based on their identities, such as gender, religious affiliation, race or sexual orientation. An inclusive workplace is achieved when individuals, in-spite of their differences, contribute in meaningful ways to all aspects of the organization, especially at the levels of decision making power and authority.