What do you think of when you hear the term diversity? What do you think of when you hear the term inclusion? What do you see? What do you associate with them? Are they the same things to you? Often the terms diversity and inclusion appear together and many people use these terms interchangeably, but I am of the strong opinion that they are not synonymous or interchangeable.
Diversity as defined in Merriam-Webster dictionary is “ An instance of being composed of differing elements: Variety; especially the inclusion of different types of people”. This broad definition suggests that diversity can occur when you have a cross representation of many things especially people.
With global diversity trends increasing , it is imperative that institutions of higher education embrace diversity and inclusion in its truest sense to remain not only competitive and relevant but culturally competent too.
Diversity happens when you have represented people of many cultures, languages, ideologies, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, religions, gender, sexual orientation so on and so forth, in a specific environment. This does not however, make an environment inclusive. Many organizations, unfortunately, fall into the category of being inclusive in policy language only (i.e an organization may have a well written mission statement which very eloquently articulates their inclusive philosophy) while their day to day practices are very exclusive.
An inclusive environment operates effectively when everyone matters. This may sound cliché but an organization that is truly inclusive makes every good faith effort to take into consideration all populations of people and the varying life elements that they represent. A representation of all persons opinions are at least considered when making decisions or mandating policy, and there is no population of people regardless of title, position, department, organizational level, race, religion, gender, age, ability etc. who is valued over another. True inclusion takes some work to accomplish and even the most well intentioned individuals can miss the mark when it comes to cultivating an environment of inclusion. Inclusion is a goal that takes constant effort to perpetuate and that involves the buy in from individuals from the top down, but it starts with the individual first. Do you operate as a person who tries to be inclusive and accepting of others? How do you interact with others and are you able to embrace the ever growing diversity of society? Are diversity and inclusion things you value?