Excellence in Diversity … Why Diversity isn’t Enough

 From my personal observations, it seems that people often use diversity and inclusion interchangeably. I get it. Sort of. They both give you (if you are a supporter of diversity and inclusion) a warm, fuzzy feeling. A feeling that these words somehow make the world a better place. And, from that standpoint, in my opinion, having a diverse and inclusive environment around you does make the world a better place.

Image result for diversity and inclusion

However, I think that if people stopped and thought more about what each of these words mean without the other, companies, universities, etc would be more successful at having diverse and inclusive environments. These words are not always linked, even though they really need to be in order to foster a more accepting world. For example, while pondering this, I came across an article that talked about how Florida State University (FSU) recently earned the “Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award” for the fourth year in a row. Kudos to FSU! That is undoubtedly a major accomplishment and a step in the right direction for large universities nationwide. However, while the article states that “it’s recognition of their [FSU’s] continuous efforts towards diversity and inclusion,” (see link below), the name of the award says nothing about inclusion. And it should.


So, what is the difference between diversity and inclusion? I came across this article that I think very eloquently describes the differences between diversity and inclusion (and also includes compliance, which I won’t discuss here).


Generally, diversity denotes the numerous characteristics and traits that a person has. These traits include (but are not limited to) someone’s gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender orientation, ability, socioeconomic status, education, etc. In order to have a diverse environment, you must have people that represent these characteristics in different ways. For example, a work place would not be diverse if 95% of the workers were white heterosexual men between that ages of 25-35 who all have Masters degrees.

Inclusion, on the other hand, refers to how people within given environments feel about their treatment. Do gay people feel comfortable “coming out” to coworkers? If they are “out,” do coworkers treat them the same as straight coworkers? Do minority group members feel like they are only there to fill a diversity quota?

Image result for diversity and inclusion meme

Because these words mean very different things (but are made out of the same thread), workplaces often do not succeed in their diversity initiatives because they do not also include inclusion. It does not really matter how many diversity quotas you meet if the people who fill the diversity quotas do not feel included. These “diverse” individuals will leave their jobs or make it known that it is unpleasant to work there if you are “diverse.” Bottom line is … we need to be sure that the world doesn’t only focus on making the workplace, schools, etc more diverse. We also need to work on making these places more inclusive.

3 Replies to “Excellence in Diversity … Why Diversity isn’t Enough”

  1. I think about this a lot but don’t know how to communicate it, so thank you for posting about this. I think that it is definitely something we need to do a better job differentiating, but my standards right now are that people care about either/or. So I find myself struggling with pointing out this difference when I am grateful for any effort at all, especially given the political climate. So, you’re right. Diversity and inclusion are different topics. But as of now, I’ll settle for either/or.

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