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Our DEI Glossary

Our DEI Glossary

Getting our language right when we are having conversations about DEI helps us to develop our confidence and our competence, both individually and collectively. We are constantly asked to share a glossary of key terms. This page is a work in progress and will evolve – please review it, share it and engage with it by suggesting additional words and alternative definitions for us to include so that the DEI Glossary is co-created and a helpful supporting resource for you and your team.

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We have made this page into a downloadable resource to make it more user-friendly. Please do feel free to share it with colleagues in your organisation. The PDF file will be updated on an annual basis to include new additions.

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A to H

  • Accomplice: Accomplices are willing to take the necessary steps to ensure that their workplace is safe from physical, verbal, and mental abuse (i.e. microaggressions). To be an accomplice, one must be willing to do more than listen; they must be willing to stand with those who are being attacked, excluded or otherwise mistreated, even if that means suffering personal or professional backlash. Being an accomplice means being willing to act with and for oppressed peoples and accepting the potential fallout from doing so.
  • Advocacy: Advocacy means getting support from another person to help you express your views and wishes, and help you stand up for your rights. Someone who helps you in this way is called your advocate.
  • Affinity Group: An affinity group is a group formed around a shared interest or common goal, to which individuals formally or informally belong. Affinity groups can be based on a common social identity or ideology, a shared concern for a given issue or a common activity, role, interest or skill.
  • Authenticity: Being authentic means coming from a real place within. It is when our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be.
  • Belonging: Belongingness is the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, a religion, or something else, people tend to have an 'inherent' desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves.
  • Calling In: Much like calling out, calling in aims to get the person to change their problematic behaviour. The primary difference between calling in and calling out is that calling in is done with a little more compassion and patience. Sometimes people – especially people who are shy, new to social justice activism, or easily hurt – receive messages better when they are sent gently.
  • Calling Out: Calling someone out serves two primary purposes: It lets that person know they’re being oppressive, and it lets others know that the person was being oppressive. By letting others know about this person’s oppressive behaviour, more people can hold them accountable for their actions. While staying silent about injustice often means being complicit in oppression, calling out lets someone know that what they are doing will not be condoned.
  • Change Management: Change management is a collective term for all approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organisations in making organisational change.
  • Colour Blind: A colour blind society, in sociology, is one in which racial classification does not limit a person's opportunities. Such societies are free from differential legal or social treatment based on their race or colour.
  • Concrete Ceiling: An artificial barrier based on attitudinal or organisational bias that prevents qualified individuals from advancing upward in their organization into management level positions. “Concrete ceiling” not only restricts access to top-level positions but middle management positions. It is dense and not as easily shattered. Evidence shows that minorities are faced with insurmountable barriers as they attempt to move upward.
  • Critical Race Theory: Critical race theory (CRT) is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists that seeks to critically examine law as it intersects with issues of race and to challenge mainstream liberal approaches to racial justice.
  • Cultural Intelligence: Cultural intelligence or cultural quotient is a term used in business, education, government and academic research. Cultural intelligence can be understood as the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures, bearing similarity to the term cultural agility.
  • Decolonisation: Decolonisation is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby a nation establishes and maintains its domination of foreign territories.
  • Discrimination: The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, sex, or disability.
  • Diversity: Diversity is differences in racial and ethnic, socioeconomic, geographic, and academic/professional backgrounds. People with different opinions, backgrounds (degrees and social experience), religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientations, heritage, and life experience.
  • Diversification: The action of diversifying something or the fact of becoming more diverse.
  • Employee Reference Group: Employee resource groups (also known as ERGs, affinity groups, or business network groups) are groups of employees who join together in their workplace based on shared characteristics or life experiences.
  • Equality: Equality means "the state of being equal." It's one of the ideals a democratic society, and so the fight to attain different kinds of equality, like racial equality, gender equality, or equality of opportunity between rich and poor, is often associated with progress toward that ideal of everyone being truly equal.
  • Equality Impact Schemes: Equality impact assessments ensure that our policies, services and legislation do not discriminate against anyone and that, where possible, we promote equality of opportunity. Completion of equality impact assessments is a legal requirement under race, disability and gender equality legislation.
  • Equity: Social equity is concerned with justice and fairness of social policy. Since the 1960s, the concept of social equity has been used in a variety of institutional contexts, including education and public administration.
  • Ethnicity: Ethnicity refers to the social characteristics that people may have in common, such as language, religion, regional background, culture, foods, etc. Ethnicity is revealed by the traditions one follows, a person’s native language, and so on. Race, on the other hand, describes categories assigned to demographic groups based mostly on observable physical characteristics, like skin colour, hair texture and eye shape.
  • Fundamental British Values: According to Ofsted, 'Fundamental British values' comprise: democracy. the rule of law. individual liberty. mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, and for those without faith.
  • Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that is seen in abusive relationships. It is the act of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them. A victim of gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their own sanity.
  • Gender Blindness: “Gender blindness” refers to the lack of awareness about how men and women are differently affected by a situation due to their different roles, needs, status and priorities in their societies.
  • Gender Dysphoria: The condition of feeling one's emotional and psychological identity to be at variance with one's birth sex.
  • Gender Expression: The way in which a person expresses their gender identity, typically through their appearance, dress, and behaviour.
  • Gender Pronouns: Gender pronouns are words that people use to refer to others without using their names. Using a person's correct pronouns fosters an inclusive environment and affirms a person's gender identity.
  • Glass Ceiling: A glass ceiling is a metaphor used to represent an invisible barrier that keeps a given demographic from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy. The metaphor was first coined by feminists in reference to barriers in the careers of high-achieving women.
  • Glass Cliff: The glass cliff is the phenomenon of women in leadership roles, such as executives in the corporate world and female political election candidates, being likelier than men to achieve leadership roles during periods of crisis or downturn, when the chance of failure is highest.

I to P

  • Identity: The fact of being who or what a person or thing is; a close similarity or affinity.
  • Imposter Syndrome: Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. 'Imposters' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.
  • Inclusion: Inclusion is the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation's success.
  • Inclusive Allyship: Allyship is the practice of emphasising social justice, inclusion, and human rights by members of an ingroup, to advance the interests of an oppressed or marginalised outgroup. Allyship is part of the anti-oppression or anti-racist conversation, which puts into use social justice theories and ideals.
  • Inner Critic: Inner critic refers to an inner voice that judges, criticizes, or demeans a person, whether or not the self-criticism is objectively justified. A highly active inner critic can take a toll on one's emotional wellbeing and self-esteem.
  • Intersectionality: The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
  • Microaggressions: A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.
  • Neurodiversity: The term neurodiversity refers to variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions in a non-pathological sense.
  • Oppression: The combination of prejudice and institutional power which creates a system that discriminates against some groups (often called “target groups”) and benefits other groups (often called “dominant groups”). Examples of these systems are racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, ageism, and anti-Semitism. These systems enable dominant groups to exert control over target groups by limiting their rights, freedom, and access to basic resources such as health care, education, employment, and housing.
  • Organisational Culture: An organisation's culture defines the proper way to behave within the organisation. This culture consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviours and understanding.
  • Organisational Values: Core values are principles or standards of behaviour that represent an organisation's highest priorities, deeply held beliefs, and fundamental driving forces. They are at the heart of what organisations and employees stand for from an ethical perspective.
  • Performative Allyship: Far from being supportive of an anti-racist agenda, performative allyship has a disturbing influence, which stifles progress and has the detrimental effect of suppressing attempts to foster genuinely inclusive workplace environments. The problem with performative allyship, is that it maintains the status quo and renders illegitimate, any attempts to change processes that support structural racism, and other barriers.
  • Power: The capacity to exercise control over others. The ability or official authority to decide what is best for others. The ability to decide who will have access to resources.
  • Prejudice: A judgment or opinion that is formed on insufficient grounds before facts are known or in disregard of facts that contradict it. Prejudices are learned and can be unlearned.
  • Privilege: Privilege operates on personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels and gives advantages, favours, and benefits to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of target groups. Privilege is characteristically invisible to people who have it. People in dominant groups often believe that they have earned the privileges that they enjoy or that everyone could have access to these privileges if only they worked to earn them. In fact, privileges are unearned and they are granted to people in the dominant groups whether they want those privileges or not, and regardless of their stated intent.
  • Protected Characteristics: Protected characteristics are specific aspects of a person's identity defined by the Equality Act 2010. The 'protection' relates to protection from discrimination.
  • Psychological Safety: Psychological safety is the belief that you will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.

Q to Z

  • Representation: The action of speaking or acting on behalf of someone or the state of being so represented.
  • Safe Space: A place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.
  • Single Equality Scheme: The Equality Act 2010 introduced a single Public Sector Equality Duty that applies to public bodies, including maintained schools and Academies, and extends to certain protected characteristics race, disability, sex, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity and gender reassignment. You are no longer required to produce a single equality scheme, but may still find it useful to do so. See examples from primaries, secondaries and special schools.
  • Social Justice: Justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.
  • Societal Barriers: Societal barriers refer to differences and inequalities associated with different types of peoples in society. Barriers can occur because of people's genders, ethnicities, races, religions, or socioeconomic status.
  • Stereotype: An exaggerated or distorted belief that attributes characteristics to members of a particular group, simplistically lumping them together and refusing to acknowledge differences among members of the group.
  • Structural Barriers: Structural barriers include prejudice, xenophobia, internalized oppression and privilege, and beliefs about race influenced by the dominant culture.
  • Structural Inequality: Structural inequality occurs when the fabric of organisations, institutions, governments or social networks contains an embedded bias which provides advantages for some members and marginalises or produces disadvantages for other members. This can involve property rights, status, or unequal access to health care, education and other physical or financial resources or opportunities. Structural inequality is believed to be an embedded part of the culture of the United States due to the history of slavery and the subsequent suppression of equal civil rights of minority races.
  • Systemic Barriers: Systemic barriers are policies, practices or procedures that result in some people receiving unequal access or being excluded.
  • Systemic Oppression: Systemic oppression is systematic and has historical antecedents; it is the intentional disadvantaging of groups of people based on their identity while advantaging members of the dominant group (gender, race, class, sexual orientation, language etc
  • Sponsor: Sponsoring something (or someone) is the act of supporting an event, activity, person, or organization financially or through the provision of products or services. The individual or group that provides the support, similar to a benefactor, is known as sponsor.
  • Transphobia: Transphobia is a collection of ideas and phenomena that encompass a range of negative attitudes, feelings or actions towards transgender people or transness in general. Transphobia can include fear, aversion, hatred, violence, anger, or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who do not conform to social gender expectations.
  • Unconscious Bias: Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one's tendency to organize social worlds by categorising.
  • Whiteness Theory: Whiteness Theory looks at how whiteness is centric in culture, creating a blindness to the set of privileges associated with White identity, also known as White Privilege.
  • Woke: Alert to injustice in society, especially racism.
  • Zero Sum Game: The mindset relating to or denoting a situation in which whatever is gained by one side is lost by the other. We need to challenge this to emphasise that by ensuring someone is included does not mean someone else is excluded.