You’re in the office, at a meeting. Someone says something insensitive, and you want to call them out on it. Yet you don’t quite know what to say. You want to express your feeling of being excluded or ostracized by their words, but if you do that, they might feel like they’re being attacked for being different from the rest of the room. So instead of calling out the person, you settle for saying something innocuous—like “I don’t think anyone here feels this way,” which doesn’t really address anything at all about why his remarks were inappropriate.
If only there was a word for this kind of situation! And wouldn’t it be great if we had words that described when someone is excluded from an organization or group because of their race or gender, or sexual orientation? Or when someone feels like they just don’t fit into what’s happening? This is where “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “belonging” come in handy. Each one describes a slightly different aspect of how people feel about themselves and others around them—and each one can be used as part of conversations about being inclusive (which means including everyone).
Inclusion is about ensuring everyone is welcome, treated fairly, and able to participate. Inclusion is about creating an environment where people from different backgrounds can feel comfortable being themselves. Inclusion aims to create a culture that helps everyone thrive and reach their full potential.
Belonging is about feeling like you are part of a community. It’s about feeling like you have a place to belong. Belonging is about having people who accept you as you are, where you can be yourself and not worry about being judged or ridiculed.
In order to belong, we need to feel accepted by others but also feel like we are accepted by ourselves. When we don’t feel accepted by others, it makes us question our own self-worth and identity in the world — it makes us doubt ourselves and our ability to function in society as a whole. This can lead to depression or other mental health issues such as anxiety or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Diversity is the idea that people are different from each other. It’s about differences and similarities. Diversity can be about the differences between people, like their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Or it can be about similarities; for example, if two people live in different countries, but both speak English as a first language.
We all have unique experiences and values that make us who we are – this is what makes diversity important: it’s part of what makes each of us special!
The Three Ideas are Related, but They’re Also Different.
You may have heard the terms “inclusion,” “diversity,” and “belonging” used interchangeably in the workplace. While they’re related, they are different ideas.
Inclusion is the practice of creating a space where everyone belongs — whether that’s by providing services that meet diverse needs or by changing practices to create a more welcoming environment for minority groups. Inclusion also means ensuring everyone feels comfortable at work and can bring their whole selves to work; this includes allowing employees to talk about their lives outside of work if they want to do so.
Belonging is the feeling of being accepted as part of a group or community — and it’s important for any company because it makes people feel valued and respected. In other words, when people feel like they belong in their workplace, they’re more likely to be productive members (and stay with) than those who don’t feel welcome there.
Diversity refers specifically to when we are talking about differences between people rather than their similarities.
- gender identity/expression
- sexual orientation
- religious beliefs
- immigrant status/national origin
- Etc. I’m listing these here so that you get an idea (but not exhaustively).
Reflect on the Differences
By understanding how each of these words can be used differently across contexts (and learning how to use them correctly yourself), you’ll be well on your way towards improving workplace culture!
To take these words a bit further, reflect on the following questions:
“In what ways do the above definitions differ from your understanding of diversity, inclusion, and belonging?”
“What are some examples of how each word is used in your workplace?”
“How can you use this information to create an environment that fosters genuine inclusivity for all employees?”
I hope this blog post helped clarify the difference between diversity, inclusion, and belonging. While it can be easy to confuse these three concepts, they all have important roles to play in fostering a workplace where people feel valued and included.