What is Diversity?

  • Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender, but also age, national origin, religion, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance (etc.). It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.

It is important to note that many activists and thinkers critique diversity alone as a strategy. For instance, Baltimore Racial Justice Action states: “Diversity is silent on the subject of equity. In an anti-oppression context, therefore, the issue is not diversity, but rather equity. Often when people talk about diversity, they are thinking only of the “non-dominant” groups.” It carries  the connotation that something is being either implicitly, or explicitly, compared to and/or contrasted with some real or imagined ‘norm’ “and is  signifier of everything and yet nothing; it is conveniently unspecific” (Morrishand O’Mara , 2011) 

While diversity efforts on college campuses have brought attention to the vast differences among students—including gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.—the term diversity fails to address issues surrounding race/ethnicity and does not account for the different histories, needs, interests, and issues affecting distinct groups of students on campus. (Occasional Paper, 2013)