What is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion?

We often see the 3 words equality, diversity and inclusion banded about rather like throwaway phrases. But what do they mean? I have had an interesting few months delivering equality, diversity and inclusion training to a variety of people in organisations.

Many of the participants who have turned up at the training have a different perception of what each word means. So, usually at the very beginning of training event I set out to establish what peoples’ perceptions of the words are?

It is probably wise to take each one in turn:


Many comments at recent training events have ranged from defining it as favouring one group over another to having a level playing field for everyone. I would say that it can be a combination of both the definitions above. As, in the case of the example of where women are under-represented in the workplace it may be that for a period of time, women are encouraged to apply for jobs in a particular company or even encouraged to go for promotion.

But surely this can’t be equality you say?

In some cases no, but this short term measure (and it should be short term), should help to address the imbalance in the workplace. In the end creating a more equal workplace.


Diversity is another word that I have had interesting discussions about in recent training events. Many people assume that it is only related to race and ethnicity. Although, once we begin to examine this in more depth, people begin to realise that it is about the entire ‘make-up’ or workforces, communities or society. Diversity is about the length and breadth or our experience and what we bring to an organisation, community or society. This could be as a result of someone’s experience of being disabled or it could be the creative ideas that a young person brings to an organisation.


Inclusion, now there is another word! In this country we seem to have gone through various ideological changes. We started with segregation. Often this was the case with immigration of people who had come from the Caribbean in the 60’s and the ‘long stay’ hospitals for people with a learning disability. In this ideology, people were separated because of difference.

We then moved onto integration. A practice of accepting people regardless of perceived difference but expecting them to fit in with whatever provision was available. Integration makes no differentiation for peoples’ differences or needs.

I had a really interesting conversation about integration and inclusion last week at a training event, where one of the delegates argued strongly that they were the same thing. That may be the case in the dictionary definition, but among equality, diversity and inclusion practitioners they are very different things.

Inclusion is the practice of someone being accepted for whom they are and changes are made accordingly. Inclusion promotes equality of opportunity and ensures that everyone’s  needs are met. As one recent course participant remarked ‘..the course taught me the different and more subtle types of discrimination and barriers to inclusion that often go unseen.’ This is really the essence of inclusion: it is often removing the things we cannot see, such as attitudes and prejudice. If these are removed then we can achieve equality, diversity and inclusion.

I hope that this has been a useful explanation for you of equality, diversity and inclusion. I would value any opinions or comments you may have.