Key Terms and Definitions

Affinity (group): a group of people who share interests, issues, and a common bond or background and offer support for each other

Ally: a person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another social identity group and who is willing to act to help end discrimination, amplify unheard voices, and protect the rights of all

Allyship: one’s position to stand for and drive outcomes that many lack the positional power or social capital to lead

Awareness Stage: in this stage an inclusive leader realizes that the playing field is not level in the workplace or in other group or organizational contexts. This stage is about beginning to understand other people’s perspectives and stories and working through your own stories and biases

Bystander: someone who witnesses something taking place but does not participate or assume an active role. The bystander has the choice to call out problematic behavior or passively let it continue

Capital (Social or Professional): refers to the assets one person or entity has to put into play on another person or community’s behalf

Cultural Intelligence/Competency: the ability to interact effectively across difference

Diversity Dimensions: the categories of identity that inform our unique experiences, backgrounds, and self-understanding. These classifications include (but are not limited to) race, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, age, socio-economic status/class, religion, political ideology, veteran status, citizenship, education, and appearance


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Equality: create fairness by providing everyone wit the same resources, treatment, and support, regardless of the difference between individuals that may influence what they need to thrive


Equity: create fairness by providing people wit individualized resources, treatment, and support in order to compensate for the differences between individuals. Equity acknowledges the privilege afforded to certain individuals and attempts to level the playing field

Intersectionality: the complex interaction between different stigmatized identities such as race, class, and gender. This mindset acknowledges that these diversity dimensions overlap and create unique dynamics

Microaggression: brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership

Micro-inequity: the casual degradation of any socially marginalized group

Privilege: cultural, legal, social, or institutional rights/advantages that select people have access to solely because of their social group membership. Almost everyone has some form of privilege that can be leveraged to support those without it due to the intersectional nature of identity-based power

Privilege Walk: an exercise in which participants stand in a horizontal line and step forward or backward based on questions read by the facilitator. These statements address privilege stemming from race, gender and gender identity, class, sexual orientation, ability, and more, with the intention of visually demonstrating the different advantages people have had throughout their lives

Stereotype Threat: The sense that one might be judged in terms of negative stereotypes about one’s group instead of personal merit – this can lead to the expected negatively-viewed behavior

Unaware Stage: In this stage an inclusive leader does not notice or understand that certain demographic groups or those with certain backgrounds and experiences have a much harder time thriving at work. In this stage, people are disengaged from the conversation around diversity and inclusion and/or uninterested in it. This resistance may be silent or public

Unconscious Bias: our set of attitudes toward and stereotypes of other social groups that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious way, especially negatively

Brown, J. (2021).How to be an Inclusive Leader: Your role in creating cultures of belonging where everyone can thrive.