What is diversity?

The diversity definition refers to the existence of variations of different characteristics in a group of people. These characteristics could be everything that makes us unique, such as our cognitive skills and personality traits, along with the things that shape our identity (e.g. race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, cultural background).

To better understand and define diversity, we can think about it in a social context. For example, at work, you might interact with coworkers of different genders, age groups, faiths and so on. Likewise, at school, students may come from different socio-economic classes and have different personalities and physical abilities.

While the first things that come to mind when we talk about diversity are race and gender, there’s more than that. For a deeper analysis, you can refer to the breakdown of the different types of diversity.

What is diversity in the workplace?

To come up with a workplace diversity definition, we have to think about all the different characteristics that employees (could) have. First, we have the protected characteristics, such as race, age, gender and sexual orientation. And secondly, we have all the different:

  • Experiences
  • Talents
  • Skills
  • Opinions
  • Personalities

These differences, for example employees’ talents, are less obvious and require the organization’s effort and proactiveness to shine.

Diversity and discrimination

Diversity in the workplace is also closely tied with discrimination. Bias and discriminatory employment practices exclude people who have specific characteristics, making it difficult for organizations to achieve and maintain diversity. That’s why many companies take action; here are some more examples of diversity in the workplace along with ways to tackle discrimination:

What is diversity and inclusion?

In the recruiting and HR space, you might often hear the phrase “Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)”. There’s a reason why these two terms are distinct; diverse employees don’t automatically form an inclusive workplace where every employee is valued and given opportunities to thrive. To achieve both diversity and inclusion, companies could have people or teams (e.g. a D&I Manager) dedicated to designing anti-discrimination policies across the organization and ensuring that all candidates and employees get equal opportunities regardless of their protected characteristics.

The importance of diversity in the workplace

Building a diverse company means that you don’t discriminate against protected characteristics and that you’re an equal opportunity employer. This will help build up your employer brand and keep employees satisfied and productive (and it’s also the right thing to do).

While you might be obliged by law to be unbiased when hiring and managing employees, it’s not mandatory to actively aim to build diverse teams. However, there are some business benefits associated with diversity in the workplace, that you should take into account.

Diverse companies:

  • Reflect societies and demographics more accurately
  • Speak to a broader market
  • Get more creative and profitable

Read some studies and interesting stats that can help you build the business case for building diverse teams.

Want more definitions? See our complete library of HR Terms.

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