Diversity vs. Inclusion: What’s the Difference?

Focus Area — Inclusion


How organizations think about diversity is shifting. Building a diverse organization remains a priority for employers, but there’s more to be done. In today’s workplace, companies need to think strategically about their inclusion efforts in order to support their diversity; doing this can lead to a positive impact on company culture, innovation, and the bottom line. To get there, let’s start with identifying the difference between diversity and inclusion. We’ll also take a closer look at the concept of intersectionality.

Diversity and Inclusion – complimentary but Distinct

The terms diversity and inclusion are often paired together, but it’s important to understand that they don’t mean the same thing. For example, it’s possible to achieve a statistically diverse workforce yet struggle to create an inclusive workplace culture. The Centre for Global Inclusion explains the terms as follows:

Diversity refers to the variety of similarities and differences among people, including but not limited to gender, gender identity, ethnicity, race, native or Indigenous origin, age, generation, sexual orientation, culture, religion, belief system, marital status, parental status, socio-economic difference, appearance, language and accent, disability, mental health, education, geography, nationality, work style, work experience, job role and function, thinking style, and personality type.

Inclusion is a dynamic state of operating in which diversity is leveraged to create a fair, healthy, and high-performing organization or community. An inclusive environment ensures equitable access to resources and opportunities for all. It also enables individuals and groups to feel safe, respected, engaged, motivated, and valued, for who they are and for their contributions toward organizational and societal goals.

Achieving Inclusion Through an Intersectional Lens

Intersectionality is a term originally coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 in her article Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex. Today, the term is also used as an approach for inclusion in the workplace. Intersectionality appreciates that what makes us who we are as individuals goes beyond the traditional diversity buckets of gender, religion, age, etc. We are shaped by our background, our culture, our personalities, and our experiences. Simply put, when it comes to inclusion in the workplace, intersectionality identifies that a one-sized approach does not fit all.

Putting Intersectionality to Work

With the goal to help organizations achieve an inclusive culture, The Conference Board of Canada is hosting the Inclusive Workplaces Conference on December 4th, 2019 in Toronto. . This year’s event will take a progressive approach to inclusion. The agenda will focus on intersectionality as a mindset to drive new ideas, improve the bottom line, and foster a positive culture.

Join us at the premium event as we connect, learn and share ways to drive a more inclusive workplace.

More: Where do we stand? The Conference Board of Canada’s Measuring Up report provides an overview of where Canadian organizations currently stand with respect to inclusion and diversity.

Amanda Daoust

Network Manager 

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