Diversity encompasses more than race, ethnicity, or gender — it includes other demographic information such as age, language, education, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and disability. Diversity should be used to describe groups or populations rather than individuals, as a person cannot be “diverse.” In recent years, many organizations have pushed to improve diversity, though often without a clear understanding of how that is being defined or what the outcomes should be. The term diversity has often been used in name only without policies or actions to support changes in education or the workplace.
Diversity training began in the 1960s as a result of equal employment and affirmative action laws. In the 1970s and 1980s, diversity training was a means to avoid civil rights lawsuits for employers. Numerous studies have found that many of the types of trainings do not produce lasting change and can serve to reinforce stereotypes instead of dismantling them.
In the 1960s, after civil rights legislation was passed, students and faculty in higher education began to protest and demand more diversified curriculums. In the 1980s and 1990s, many higher education institutions framed diversity beyond statistics to include shifting campus climates. Diversity efforts in education include hiring practices and programs such as affirmative action for college admissions, as well as pushes to change curriculums to include books by nonwhite, non-male authors and establishing ethnic studies programs.
In 2015, activist April Reign coined the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag to draw attention to the fact that none of the 20 acting nominees were actors of color. The same thing happened in 2016. Following widespread negative press coverage, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made significant efforts to diversify its membership. This led to some changes, but major disparities still exist: For instance, a 2020 UCLA report found that though there were more roles for people of color in 2020, people of color were still underrepresented in writers’ rooms and executive positions.
- Racial Equity Tools Glossary (Racial Equity Tools)
- Glossary of Terms: Race, Equity, and Social Justice (International City/County Management Association)
Diversity involves the composition of a group or a community of people. It can refer to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, and disability, among other identities and experiences. Diversity should be used to describe groups or populations rather than individuals, as a person cannot be “diverse.”