What are the types of diversity?

Based on the standard diversity definition, the types of diversity in a social context are theoretically infinite: they encompass every characteristic that appears with variations among a group of people (such as hair or eye color). But usually, when it comes to workplaces, there are seven types of diversity we pay attention to.

Here’s a list of the different types of diversity in the workplace:

  • Cultural diversity
  • Racial diversity
  • Religious diversity
  • Age diversity
  • Sex / Gender diversity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability

Here’s a breakdown of these forms of diversity:

Cultural diversity

This type of diversity is related to each person’s ethnicity and it’s usually the set of norms we get from the society we were raised in or our family’s values. Having different cultures in the workplace is more common in multinational companies.

Race diversity

Race has to do with a person’s grouping based on physical traits (despite the dominant scientific view that race is a social construct and not biologically defined). Examples of races are Caucasian, African, Latino and Asian.

Religious diversity

This type of diversity refers to the presence of multiple religions and spiritual beliefs (including lack thereof) in the workplace.

Age diversity

Age diversity means working with people of different ages and, most importantly, generations. For example, millennials, GenZers and GenXers can coexist in the same workplace.

Sex / Gender / Sexual orientation

Sex and gender can be used in the traditional sense of male and female employees. For example, you may sometimes hear the term “gender balance” used by companies trying to achieve a 50-50 balance between employees who identify as male and employees who identify as female. But, as gender is increasingly redefined, the term “gender diversity” may be more appropriate, since there are multiple variations in gender and sexual orientation.

Disability

There are various types of disabilities or chronic conditions included here, ranging from mental to physical. Companies often make reasonable accommodations to help people with disabilities integrate into the workplace, such as installing ramps for wheelchairs or providing mental health support. Some companies also adjust their hiring process to make sure it’s inclusive.

Protected by law

The characteristics corresponding to these forms of diversity are protected by law in many countries: these “protected characteristics” are attributes that companies shouldn’t take into account when making employment decisions (especially adverse decisions, like terminating employees or rejecting job candidates). For example, you mustn’t decide to reject an applicant for a job simply because they’re Asian, female or a person with disabilities.

Conversely, it’s good practice to strive to have all these diversity categories in your workforce by eliminating biases and using affirmative action plans.

Additional types of diversity

Apart from protected characteristics, there are other important types of diversity, too, like:

  • Socioeconomic background / Class diversity
  • Education
  • Life experiences
  • Personality
  • General worldview / opinions

These are characteristics that are more intangible than protected characteristics, but it’s equally useful to take them into account inside the business context.

Why is diversity important?

The business case for diversity has been thoroughly laid out for years. If every team member has the same backgrounds, attributes or perspectives, their team might not be as creative and successful as it could. Homogeneity deprives teams from healthy conflict that brings innovation and progress.

How do we reap the benefits of diversity? It starts with getting rid of harmful biases when making employment decisions.

See more on the definition of diversity and biases.

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

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