Glossary of diversity and inclusion terms

This glossary is taken from Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the award-winning peer learning platform, who have kindly given permission for the IPA to reproduce it for A Future of Fairness. This glossary is by no means exhaustive and as you know, is ever changing. Please use it for general guidance only. Please note: The glossary does not constitute legal advice.




    Dominant attitudes in society that assume there is an ideal body and mind, leading to discriminatory behaviours toward people who differ from this norm. 


    The design, development or state of physical or digital environments, resources and services that are easy to reach, enter, use, see, etc. for all users.


    Ace is an umbrella term used to describe a variation in levels of romantic and/or sexual attraction, including a lack of attraction.


    Stereotyping and discriminating against individuals on the basis of their age.

    Affinity bias

    The tendency to connect with people who look and seem most like ourselves.

    Affinity groups

    A group of people who share the same interest or purpose such as gender, age, religion, race or sexual orientation


    Ally is a term used for people who support a social group other than their own, by acknowledging disadvantage and oppression, taking action on the behalf of others.


    Allyship is using your position of privilege to make a more inclusive workplace.


    Refers to a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction


    Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods

    Attribution error

    Using a false assumption to explain someone’s behaviour.

    Behavioural diversity

    Behavioural diversity relates to personal experiences that help shape our world view to be more open-minded and accepting of others who are different than us


    An attraction towards more than one gender. Bi people

    may also describe themselves as bisexual, pansexual, bi- curious, queer, and other non- monosexual identities.


    Bicultural identity is the condition of being oneself regarding the combination of two cultures.


    Systematic patterns where our brains stray from rationality in judgement which can result in attitudes for or against a person, group or concept especially in a way considered to be unfair.


    A person with a fear of or antipathy towards bisexuals and bisexuality.


    A broad term for all people with ethnic origins in the African continent. Less commonly this term is used to refer to all people around the world who are not of white European descent. It is encouraged to capitalise Black (when you’re talking about race) – this is consistent with usage for other ethnic groups like Asian, Arab, Latinx.

    BME or BAME

    An acronym that stands for Black [and Asian] & minority ethnic. Though generally accepted, as with people of colour, there’s been some pushback to these terms in recent years for being too reductionist and too inclusive. By reductionist we mean it reduces the nuanced and complex experiences of an individual to an overly simplistic, broad term.

    Cisgender or Cis

    Refers to a person whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Often used by the allies, who by using this term recognise that trans people exist and matter.

    Cognitive diversity

    Cognitive diversity accounts for differences in our perspective and the way we process information.

    Confirmation bias

    Seeking out or only noticing information that reinforces our existing beliefs.

    Conscious prejudice

    Preconceived, usually negative, feelings towards people based solely on their group membership, like religion, race, ethnicity or age.

    Corporate social responsibility

    Practicing good corporate citizenship by going beyond profit maximisation to make a positive impact on communities and societies.

    Culture appropriation

    Culture appropriation is the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society. 

    Culture fit

    Individual attitudes, values, behaviours, and beliefs being in line with the core values and culture of an organisation.

    Culture contribution

    Culture Contribution is the likelihood that a job candidate is able to contribute, not conform, to the core values and collective behaviours that make up a company.


    Calling someone by their birth name after they have changed their name. Often associated with trans people who have changed their name.


    An acronym that stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion.


    A scattered population whichoriginated from a difference geographical area


    A physical or mental condition that limits movements, senses, activities or emotions.


    Difference from prejudice, discrimination is the behaviour or action (usually negative) against a certain individual or group based on their shared characteristics.


    Diversity refers not only to innate diversity (like race, age, gender, etc.) but also behavioural diversity like cultural fluency and cross-functional knowledge.

    Dominant culture

    A cultural practice that is dominant within a particular political, social or economic entity, in which multiple cultures are present. It may refer to language, religion/ ritual, social value and/or social custom.



    Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

    Emotional tax

    The combination of being on guard to protect against bias, feeling different at work because of gender, age, race, and/ or ethnicity, and the associated effects on health, well-being, and ability to thrive at work.

    Employee Resource Group

    A largely voluntary, employee-led group that promotes a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organisational goals and objectives.


    Treating everyone the same way while assuming that everyone starts out on equal footing with equal opportunities.


    Working toward fair outcomes for people or groups by treating them in ways that address their unique barriers.

    Ethnic groups

    The fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a shared cultural tradition.


    Includes physical attributes of groups (skin colour, facial features), social conventions (language, cultural norms, marriage within the group) and social definition ( self- identification, or identification by outsiders).

    Ethnic Minority

    An all-encompassing term used to describe the British populace who have a family heritage from countries outside of the UK.


    The tendency to believe that your own ethnic group is centrally important and measure all others using the standards and customs of your own.


    Femme is a term used in the LGBTQ+ community to describe someone who
    expresses themselves in a typically feminine way.


    Refers to a man who is attracted to men. Also a generic term for lesbian and gay sexuality – some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian. NB: though homosexual is a perfectly acceptable word, it has a medical connotation, so gay or lesbian is preferred.


    Gender is a social and cultural construct of “female” and “male”. Although our sense
    of gender can align with our assigned sex, it goes well beyond chromosomes.

    Gender dysphoria

    Gender dysphoria often occurs in transgender or genderqueer people. Gender dysphoria is often used to describe when a person feels uncomfortable identifying as the gender they were born with, and feeling distress with their gender identity.

    Gender expression

    How a person chooses to outwardly express their gender, within the context of societal expectations of gender. A person who does not conform to societal expectations of gender may not, however, identify as trans.

    Gender identity

    Gender identity is personal: it’s how we see and define ourselves.


    Someone who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.

    Gender privilege

    Gender privilege usually refers to male privilege, meaning
    a set of privileges granted to men on the basis of their


    Acronym for Gender and Sexual Diversity.


    A situation where a man appropriates or repeats a woman’s comments or ideas and then is praised for them being his own.

    Heterosexual privilege

    ‘Straight’ privilege and cis- gendered privilege is the receiving of advantages that are favourably granted to someone solely because of their heterosexual orientation
    or the gender they identify with.


    A person who is sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex. Also referred to as straight.


    A strong dislike or fear of homosexual people. See Homosexual.


    Refers to a person who is sexually attracted to people of the same sex. Also see Gay, Lesbian, Bi.


    Inclusion is the result of welcoming, respecting, supporting, involving, valuing and empowering those around you equally.

    Inclusive Leader

    A form of leadership that intentionally welcomes and incorporates the contributions of all stakeholders within an organisation to encourage teams to voice different perspectives, discuss difference of opinion, and inform the overall business strategy.

    In-group bias

    The tendency to respond more positively to people from our in-groups than we do to people from our outgroups.

    Innate diversity

    Innate Diversity is the range of differences in people like gender, age, race, physical ability and sexuality. It also includes differences in the way we think and process information.

    Institutional racism

    Institutional racism Where the systemic beliefs, unwritten rules and procedures all work to exclude a group.
    Intersectionality means the way in which different dimensions of identity (race, gender, class, sexuality) position people differently in society and very often determine what type of discrimination/oppression they will experience in what we can call a matrix of domination. The intersectional conversation allows us to view humans in the round, giving us a deeper understanding of the variety of privileges and/
    or forms of discrimination that they experience simultaneously at any moment in time. It reveals the multifaceted nature of people and the society they live in.


    The term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological
    characteristics do not fit within traditional societal assumptions about what it means to be male or female.

    Imposter Syndrome

    A psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.


    Refers to a woman who is attracted to women. NB: some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian.


    The fear or dislike of someone because they are or are perceived to be a lesbian.


    The acronym for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, questioning (or queer), intersex + other gender variants. This is the most inclusive, all- encompassing term for the gay community, including those with non-cis gender identities.


    LGBTQIA is an acronym and refers to lesbian, gay,
    bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied.



    Mansplain is a combination of two words – “man” and
    “explain”. Mansplaining refers to a man explaining something to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising.


    Where a person, group or concept is treated as insignificant or peripheral. 


    A mentor supports and guides you in your professional world either within or outside your organization.


    Microadvantages are facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice and choice of words that are even more subtle than micro-affirmations, but equally as important in making a person feel appreciated and valued.


    Microaffirmations are subtle acknowledgments of a person’s importance and
    accomplishments, which creates a feeling of being valued and a sense of belonging.


    Microaggressions are seemingly harmless but impactful everyday slights and exclusions that negatively highlight an individual’s Otherness.

    Multiracial, mixed heritage, dual heritage, mixed-race, mixed-ethnicity – or simply “mixed”

    Terms describing a person who has parentage or ancestors from more than one ethnic and/or racial group. Some people can get confused between interracial and biracial. An individual can be described as biracial if their heritage is mixed; interracial, on the other hand, is used to describe relationships or interactions between individuals from different racial groups.


    Neurodiversity describes the spread of neurological differences (learning and developmental difficulties, ADHD and Autism are examples).


    Refers to a person who doesn’t identify as only male or only female, or who identifies as both.


    A state of being subject to unjust treatment or control either at the individual level or systematic level.

    Outgroup bias

    The tendency to view people from outside our own group as less similar and, as a result, have negative biases against them.


    Refers to a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender.

    People of colour (PoC)

    An all-encompassing term for non-white people.

    Positive action

    Measures taken to increase representation of minorities in areas they have been excluded. (source: Hobbs Consultancy)

    Positive Discrimination

    Where we we discriminate in favour of a particular protected characteristic (unlawful in the UK). (source: Hobbs Consultancy)


    Refers to the (conscious or unconscious, positive or negative) attitudes and feelings one has towards an individual or group of individuals based on certain traits.


    One or a set of unearned benefits given to people owing to their membership in a specific social group relating to aspects of their identity. Those aspects can include race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and religion, as well as privilege related to wealth and class.


    Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender-neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir.

    Protected Characteristics as defined by the Equality Act of 2010

    Age; disability; gender re-assignment; marriage or civil partnership; race; religion; or belief including non-belief; pregnancy and maternity; and sexual orientation.

    Psychological Safety

    Psychological safety, term coined and defined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, is a belief that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.


    Queer is a term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can also be a way of rejecting the perceived norms of the LGBTQ+ community (racism, sizeism, ableism etc). Although some LGBTQ+ people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed in the late 80s by the queer community who have embraced it.


    Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.


    Sex is the biological category (female or male) given at birth based on physical characteristics, i.e. chromosomes and genitalia.

    Sexual orientation

    Sexual orientation is interpersonal: it’s who we’re romantically, emotionally, and/ or physically attracted to.

    Socioeconomic privilege

    One or a set of advantages held by a person or group owing to their experience and their individual or family’s social and economic status.


    A sponsor is a powerful internal advocate who looks after your interests, helps connects you to leaders and special projects, and amplifies your amazing work to other senior people in your business.


    Stereotypes are cognitive representations of how members of a group are similar to one another and different from other groups. Importantly, people can be aware of the stereotypes they hold.

    Stereotype threat

    A situational predicament in which people are or feel themselves to be at risk of conforming to stereotypes about their social group.


    Refers to a person who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to someone of the opposite sex.

    Systemic racism

    This is when white supremacy is expressed in the very processes and structures of organisations


    The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce.

    Trans or transgender

    Refers to a person whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may also describe themselves as gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, two-spirit, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois. NB: some people use the term transsexual, which is old medical terminology but trans or transgender is typically preferred.


    The steps a trans person takes to live in the gender with which they identify. For some it could involve medical intervention, such as hormone therapy and surgeries, but not all trans people want or are able to have this.


    The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including the denial/ refusal to accept their gender identity.


    This was used in the past as a more medical term (similarly to homosexual) to refer to someone whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.


    Unconscious bias

    Deep-seated assumptions we make about people who are different than us without even realising it – usually called implicit bias or unconscious bias.

    Underrepresented groups

    Refers to a group whose members are disadvantaged and subjected to unequal treatment by the dominant group, and who may regard themselves as recipients of collective discrimination.

    White privilege

    The unquestioned and unearned set of advantages and benefits bestowed on people solely because they are white. Often people with this privilege can be unaware of it as these privileges are perpetuated systemically across institutions including in the law, work, medicine, and more.

    White supremacy

    White supremacy or white supremacism is the racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them.

    Workplace inclusion

    An atmosphere where all employees belong, contribute and can thrive. It requires deliberate and intentional action.


    Dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.

    Zero sum game

    The idea that if one person gains something, another person loses something. When doing diversity and inclusion work, sometimes dominant groups believe that an organisation helps make underrepresented groups feel more included, they lose power, influence, and clout.

    This glossary is by no means exhaustive and as you know, is ever changing. Please use it for general guidance only. Please note: The glossary does not constitute legal advice.

    This glossary is taken from Inclusion Works by Hive Learning - the award-winning peer learning platform, who have kindly given permission for the IPA to reproduce it for A Future of Fairness. While collating this glossary of terms, Hive Learning learnt a lot and took note from the following sources.


    There are some additions that the IPA has collated with permission from:

    • Unstereotype Alliance
    • The Hobbs Consultancy
    • The Mayor of London

    Last updated 01 May 2024