Defining Diversity How we’ve defined Diversity in the industry has certainly evolved over the years. Decades ago it began very broad because we wanted to be careful not to exclude anyone. We said Diversity was about any and all differences. In fact, the definition I used most was “The aspect of human difference.” Well, if that isn’t difficult to manage in a workplace, I don’t know what is! Where do you even begin and, for that matter, where do you stop?
After years of using that broad definition, many companies and Diversity practitioners realized the definition needed to be narrowed. The new definitions actually listed specific groups. They said things like, “Diversity at XYZ Company is about valuing and respecting the many differences in our workplace including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.”
The problem with this approach is that it goes a little too far in the direction of specificity. Usually about seven different groups are listed. Yes, this makes our work in D&I much easier to manage, but what if those areas of Diversity aren’t the ones that most impact our workplace?
Today the definition we use comes from my colleague Nehrwr Abdul-Wahid: “Differences that may make a difference” particularly in relationship to productivity, safety, costs and legality. The beauty of this definition is that it allows for a full range of Diversity to be included, as the definition of decades past, but also allows for true specificity at the organization, group and individual level.