DEI Glossary of Terms
The purpose of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Glossary of Terms is to serve as a reference guide of terms that are critical to our shared understanding in order to advance efforts for a more inclusive work environment. This is not an exhaustive list of every DEI term; however, this glossary does provide a general guide to help individuals engage in meaningful conversations using appropriate terms. We will continue to update these terms as our healthcare system and the world evolves. You can send suggested changes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Ableism: The belief that disabled individuals are inferior to non-disabled individuals, leading to discrimination toward and oppression of individuals with disabilities and physical differences.
2. Accessibility: The extent to which a facility is readily approachable and usable by individuals with disabilities, particularly such areas as the residence halls, classrooms, and public areas.
3. Adultism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions against young people, in favor of the older person(s).
4. African-American: Refers to the ethnic group of Americans who come from African descent.
5. Ageism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in age; usually that of younger persons against older.
6. Agender: Not identifying with any gender, the feeling of having no gender.
7. Ally: A person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group. Typically, member of dominant group standing beside member(s) of targeted group; e.g., a male arguing for equal pay for women.
8. Androgynous: A person whose identity is between the two traditional genders.
9. Anti-Racist: Being critically aware of the existence of racism and understanding how it is systemic. An anti-racist person actively seeks to acknowledge the impacts of racism.
10. Anti-Semitism: The fear or hatred of Jews, Judaism, and related symbols.
11. Asexuality: Little or no romantic, emotional and/or sexual attraction toward other persons. Asexual could be described as non-sexual, but asexuality is different from celibacy, which is a choice to not engage in sexual behaviors with another person.
12. Assigned Sex: What a doctor determines to be your physical sex birth based on the appearance of one’s primary sex characteristics.
13. Assimilation: A process by which outsiders (persons who are others by virtue of cultural heritage, gender, age, religious background, and so forth) are brought into, or made to take on the existing identity of the group into which they are being assimilated. The term has had a negative connotation in recent educational literature, imposing coercion and a failure to recognize and value diversity. It is also understood as a survival technique for individuals or groups.
14. Belonging: A sense of being secure, recognized, affirmed and accepted equally such that full participation is possible.
15. Bias: Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person or group compared to another; usually in a way considered unfair.
16. Bigotry: An unreasonable or irrational attachment to negative stereotypes and prejudices.
17. Bi-Racial: A person who identifies as coming from two races. A person whose biological parents are of two different races.
18. Bisexual: A romantic, sexual, or/and emotional attraction toward people of all sexes. A person who identifies as bisexual is understood to have attraction to male and female identified persons. However, it can also mean female attraction and non-binary, or other identifiers. It is not restricted to only CIS identifiers.
19. BIPoC: Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Term commonly used to describe individuals who are not considered white. An acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
20. Black: Any various populations that have a dark pigmentation of skin who identify as Black, including those in the African Diaspora and within Africa. Should be capitalized.
21. Chicano/a/e: Used to describe people of Mexican descent. This term should not be used to refer to people or cultures of other Latin American or Spanish-speaking countries.
22. Cisgender: A person who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth.
23. Cissexism: Oppression based assumption that transgender identities and sex embodiments are less legitimate than cisgender ones.
24. Classism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on a difference in socioeconomic status, income, class; usually by upper classes against lower.
25. Collusion: Willing participation in the discrimination against and/or oppression of one’s own group (e.g., a woman who enforces dominant body ideals through her comments and actions)
26. Colonization: The action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. The action of appropriating a place or domain for one’s own use.
27. Color Blind: The belief in treating everyone “equally” by treating everyone the same; based on the presumption that differences are by definition bad or problematic, and therefore best ignored (i.e., “I don’t see race, gender, etc.”).
28. Colorism: A form of prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color.
29. Cooptation: Various processes by which members of the dominant cultures or groups assimilate members of target groups, reward them, and hold them up as models for other members of the target groups. Tokenism is a form of co-optation.
30. Conscious Bias (Explicit Bias): Refers to the attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. Much of the time, these biases and their expression arise as the direct result of a perceived threat. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to draw group boundaries to distinguish themselves from others.
31. Culture: Culture is the pattern of daily life learned consciously and unconsciously by a group of people. These patterns can be seen in language, governing practices, arts, customs, holiday celebrations, food, religion, dating rituals, and clothing.
32. Cultural Appropriation: The adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another. It is generally applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to appropriating culture. This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities, often converting culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different/less nuanced than they would originally have had.
33. Cultural Competence: The ability of an individual or organization to understand how inequity can be perpetrated through social behaviors and using that knowledge to disrupt inequitable practices. Creates the ability to function effectively and empathetically as an individual or organization within the context of cultural beliefs, behaviors and needs presented by another’s culture.
34. D.A.C.A (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals): An American immigration policy that allows some individuals who were brought to the United States without inspection as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the U.S.
35. Drag Queen/King: A man or woman dressed as the opposite gender, usually for the purpose of performance or entertainment. Many times, overdone or outrageous and may present a “stereotyped image.
36. Disability: An impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these. It substantially affects a person’s life activities and may be present from birth or occur during a person’s lifetime.
37. Discrimination: The unequal treatment of members of various groups based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favors one group over others. The denial of justice and fair treatment by both individuals and institutions in many areas, including employment, education, housing, banking, and political rights. Discrimination is an action that can follow prejudiced thinking.
38. Diversity: The presence of different and multiple characteristics that make up inherent differences that exist amongst a group of people.
39. Domestic Partner: Either member of an unmarried, cohabiting, straight and same-sex couple that seeks benefits usually available only to spouses.
40. Ethnicity: A social construct which divides individuals into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as a shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base.
41. Ethnocentricity: Considered by some to be an attitude that views one’s own culture as superior. Others cast it as “seeing things from the point of view of one’s own ethnic group” without the necessary connotation of superiority.
42. Euro-Centric: The inclination to consider European culture as normative. While the term does not imply an attitude of superiority (since all cultural groups have the initial right to understand their own culture as normative), most use the term with a clear awareness of the historic oppressiveness of Eurocentric tendencies in U.S and European society.
43. Equality: The condition under which every individual is treated in the same way and is granted the same access and rights regardless of their individual differences.
44. Equity: the process of identifying and removing the barriers that create disparities in the access to resources and means and the achievement of fair treatment and equal opportunities to thrive. Working towards fair outcomes for people or groups by treating them in ways that address their unique advantages or barriers.
45. Feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
46. Femme: A person who expresses and/or identifies with femininity.
47. First Nation People: Individuals who identify as those who were the first people to live on the Western Hemisphere continent. People also identified as Native Americans.
48. Gay: person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender.
49. Gender: The socially constructed concepts of masculinity and femininity; the “appropriate” qualities accompanying biological sex.
50. Gender Dysphoria (Gender Identity Disorder): Significant, clinical distress caused when a person’s assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) consider Gender Identity Disorder as “intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults.”
51. Gender Expression: Socially visible aspects of an individual’s gender, including clothing, appearance, behavior and/or speech. Social norms may vary from culture to culture. External manifestations of gender, expressed through a person’s name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, and/or body characteristics.
52. Gender Fluid: A person who does not identify with a single fixed gender; of or relating to a person having or expressing a fluid or unfixed gender identity.
53. Gender Identity: An individual’s innate, deeply felt sense of gender, which may or may not align with one’s sex assigned at birth.
54. Gender Nonconforming: A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit into a category.
55. Gender Transition: The process by which one modifies their physical characteristics and/or gender expression to align with their gender identity, usually under the guidance of medical professionals. Gender transition may include social steps such as name change, gender marker change, pronoun change, modification of gender expression and coming out to friends, family and co-workers. Transgender individuals may also take medical necessary steps such as hormone therapy, gender affirming surgeries or other steps. Not all transgender individuals may decide to, or be able to take the same, all, or any of these steps.
56. Gender Queer: Gender queer people typically reject notions of static categories of gender and embrace a fluidity of gender identity and often, though not always, sexual orientation. People who identify as “gender queer” may see themselves as both male or female aligned, neither male or female or as falling completely outside these categories.
57. Harassment: The use of comments or actions that can be perceived as offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning and unwelcome.
58. Hate Crime: Hate crime legislation often defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.
59. Heterosexism: The presumption that everyone is, and should be, heterosexual.
60. Heterosexuality: An enduring romantic, emotional and/or sexual attraction toward people of the other sex. The term “straight” is commonly used to refer to heterosexual people.
61. Heterosexual: Attracted to members of other or the opposite sex.
62. Hispanic: Describes people, descendants, and cultures of Spanish-speaking countries, including many Latin American countries and Spain.
63. Homophobia: The fear or hatred of homosexuality (and other non‐heterosexual identities), and persons perceived to be gay or lesbian.
64. Homosexual: Attracted to members of the same sex.(Not a preferred term)
65. Inclusion: An atmosphere where all employees can feel a sense of belonging, can contribute and can thrive. Requires deliberate and intentional action. Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power.
66. Inclusive Language: Refers to non-sexist language or language that “includes” all persons in its references. For example, “a writer needs to proofread his work” excludes females due to the masculine reference of the pronoun. Likewise, “a nurse must disinfect her hands” is exclusive of males and stereotypes nurses as females.
67. In-group Bias (Favoritism): The tendency for groups to “favor” themselves by rewarding group members economically, socially, psychologically, and emotionally in order to uplift one group over another.
68. Indigenous People: Individuals of specific cultural groups who live within (or are attached to) distinct traditional territories.
69. Institutional Racism: It is widely accepted that racism is, by definition, institutional. Institutions have greater power to reward and penalize. They reward by providing career opportunities for some people and foreclosing them for others. They reward as well by the way social goods are distributed, by deciding who receives institutional benefits.
70. Intercultural Competency: A process of learning about and becoming allies with people from other cultures, thereby broadening our own understanding and ability to participate in a multicultural process. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world and an openness to learn from them.
71. Internalized Homophobia: Among lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, internalized sexual stigma refers to the personal acceptance and endorsement of sexual stigma as part of the individual’s value system and self-concept. It is the counterpart to sexual prejudice among heterosexuals.
72. Internalized Oppression: The process whereby individuals in the target group make oppression internal and personal by coming to believe that the lies, prejudices, and stereotypes about them are true. Members of target groups exhibit internalized oppression when they alter their attitudes, behaviors, speech, and self-confidence to reflect the stereotypes and norms of the dominant group. Internalized oppression can create low self-esteem, self-doubt, and even self-loathing. It can also be projected outward as fear, criticism, and distrust of members of one’s target group.
73. Internalized Racism: When individuals from targeted racial groups internalize racist beliefs about themselves or members of their racial group. Examples include using creams to lighten one’s skin, believing that white leaders are inherently more competent, asserting that individuals of color are not as intelligent as white individuals, believing that racial inequality is the result of individuals of color not raising themselves up “by their bootstraps” (Jackson & Hardiman, 1997).
74. Intersectionality: An approach largely advanced by women of color, arguing that classifications such as gender, race, class, and others cannot be examined in isolation from one another; they interact and intersect in individuals’ lives, in society, in social systems, and are mutually constitutive. Exposing [one’s] multiple identities can help clarify the ways in which a person can simultaneously experience privilege and oppression. For example, a Black woman in America does not experience gender inequalities in exactly the same way asa white woman, nor racial oppression identical to that experienced by a Black man. Each race and gender intersection produces a qualitatively distinct life.
75. Intersex: An umbrella term describing people born with reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome pattern that can’t be classified as typically male or female.
76. ISM: A social phenomenon and psychological state where prejudice is accompanied by the power to systemically enact it.
77. Latinx/o/a/e: Used to describe people and cultural of Latin American descent. Latinx is an American English neologism, sometimes used to refer to people of Latin American cultural or ethnic identity in the United States. The gender-neutral ⟨-x⟩ suffix replaces the ⟨-o/-a⟩ ending of Latino and Latina that are typical of grammatical gender in Spanish. Its plural is Latinxs. Words used for similar purposes include Latin@ and Latine. Related gender-neutral neologisms include Chicanx and Xicanx.
78. LBGTQIA+: An inclusive term for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, pansexual and asexual. Acronym encompassing the diverse groups of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and asexual and/or corresponding queer alliances/associations. It is a common misconception that the “A” stands for allies/ally. The full acronym is “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, with all other queer identities that are not encompassed by the letters themselves being represented by the “+”.
79. Marginalization: The process by which minority groups or cultures are excluded, ignored or relegated to the margins of a group, society or community. This tactic is used to devalue ones value.
80. Microaggression: Daily common verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative slights and insults that could lead to harmful or unpleasant psychological impact on a person or group. These messages may be sent verbally, (“You speak good English”), non-verbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly around people from certain race/ethnicity) or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using Native American mascots). Such communications are usually outside the level of conscious awareness of perpetrators.
81. Microinsults: Verbal and nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person’s racial heritage or identity. An example is an employee who asks a colleague of color how she got her job, implying she may have landed it through an affirmative action or quota system.
82. Micro invalidation: Communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of color. For instance, white individuals often ask Asian-Americans where they were born, conveying the message that they are perpetual foreigners in their own land.
83. Misgender: to refer to (someone, especially a transgender or nonbinary person) using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, that does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify.
84. Multicultural: This term is used in a variety of ways and is less often defined by its users than terms such as multiculturalism or multicultural education.
85. Multiethnic: An individual that comes from more than one ethnicity. An individual whose parents are born with more than one ethnicity.
86. Multiplicity: The quality of having multiple, simultaneous social identities (e.g., being male and Buddhist and working-class).
87. Multiracial: An individual that comes from more than one race.
88. National Origin: The political state from which an individual hails; may or may not be the same as that person’s current location or citizenship.
89. Non-Binary: Terms used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman.
90. Oppression: Results from the use of institutional power and privilege where one person or group benefits at the expense of another. Oppression is the use of power and the effects of domination.
91. Pansexual: A term referring to the potential for sexual attractions or romantic love toward people of all gender identities and biological sexes. The concept of pan-sexuality deliberately rejects the gender binary and derives its origin from the transgender movement.
92. Persons of Color: A collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latin and Native American backgrounds; as opposed to the collective “White” for those of European ancestry.
93. Prejudice: A preconceived judgment or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgement and can rooted in stereotypes that denies the right of individual member of certain groups to be recognized.
94. Personal Pronouns: Linguistically, pronouns are words that refer to people by replacing proper nouns, like names. A pronoun can refer to either a person talking or a person who is being talked about. Common pronouns include they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his, and ze/zirs/zirs. Pronouns indicate the gender of a person; traditionally, “he” refers to men while “she” refers to women. The English language does not have a gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronoun, but in recent years “they” has gained considerable traction in this role.
95. Privilege: Unearned access to resources (social power) only readily available to some individuals as a result of their social group.
96. Polyamory: Polyamory is the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Unlike cheating and adultery, all polyamorous relationships are characterized by honesty, open and frequent communication, and mutually agreed-upon boundaries.
97. Postracial: A theoretical term to describe an environment free from racial preference, discrimination, and prejudice.
98. Queer: An umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society’s view of gender or sexuality. The definition indeterminacy of the word Queer, its elasticity, is one of its constituent characteristics: “A zone of possibilities.”
99. Questioning: A term used to refer to an individual who is uncertain of their sexual orientation or identity.
100. Race: A social construct that artificially divides individuals into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly skin color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation or history, ethnic classification, and/or the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given period of time. Scientists agree that there is no biological or genetic basis for racial categories.
101. Racial Equity: Racial equity is the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity is no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When this term is used, the term may imply that racial equity is one part of racial justice, and thus also includes work to address the root causes of inequities, not just their manifestations. This includes the elimination of policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or fail to eliminate them.
102. Racial Profiling: The use of race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense.
103. Racial Trauma: Racial Trauma or race-based stress, comes from dealing with racial harassment, racial violence, or institutional racism (see Institutional Racism). Can result from major experiences of racism such as workplace discrimination or hate crimes, or it can be the result of accumulation of many small occurrences, such as microaggressions.
104. Racism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on a difference in race/ethnicity; usually by white/European descent groups against persons of color. Racism is racial prejudice plus power. It is the intentional or unintentional use of power to isolate, separate and exploit others. The use of power is based on a belief in superior origin, the identity of supposed racial characteristics. Racism confers certain privileges on and defends the dominant group, which in turn, sustains and perpetuates racism.
105. Rainbow Flag: The Rainbow Freedom Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker to designate the great diversity of the LGBTIQ community. It has been recognized by the International Flag Makers Association as the official flag of the LGBTIQ civil rights movement.
106. Religion: A system of beliefs, usually spiritual in nature, and often in terms of a formal, organized denomination.
107. Resilience: The ability to recover from some shock or disturbance
108. Safe Space: Refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience. The term safe space can be traced back to the mid-1960s when it described gay and lesbian bars as places where allied people were able to gather free from attack.
109. Saliency: The quality of a group identity in which an individual is more conscious, and plays a larger role in that individual’s day‐to‐day life; for example, a man’s awareness of his “maleness” in an elevator with only women.
110. Scapegoating: The action of blaming an individual or group for something when, in reality, there is no one person or group responsible for the problem. It targets another person or group as responsible for problems in society because of that person’s group identity.
111. Sex: Biological classification of male or female (based on genetic or physiological features); as opposed to gender.
112. Sexism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on a difference in sex/gender; usually by men against women.
113. Sexual Orientation: The sex or gender to whom a person is emotionally, physically, sexually or romantically attached. Examples include, but not limited to, heterosexual (attracted to individual of sex or gender different from one’s own), homosexual (attracted to individuals of same sex or gender identity to one’s own – typically terms are gay and lesbian), or bisexual (attracted to individuals of varying sexes or gender identifies both different from and the same as one’s own). Sexual orientation is described relative to a person’s gender or gender identity and may change with gender transition.
114. Social Identity: Involves the ways in which one characterizes oneself, the affinities one has with other people, the ways one has learned to behave in stereotyped social settings, the things one values in oneself and in the world, and the norms that one recognizes or accepts governing everyday behavior.
115. Social Justice: A broad term for action intended to create genuine equality, fairness, and respect among peoples.
116. Stereotypes: A form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions that can result in a prejudiced attitude, critical judgement and intentional or unintentional discrimination.
117. System of Oppression: Conscious and unconscious, non‐random, and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, discrimination, prejudice and other forms of unequal treatment that impact different groups.
118. Systemic Racism: Complex interactions of culture, policy, and institutions that create and maintain racial inequality in nearly every facet of life for people of color.
119. Tolerance: Acceptance, and open‐mindedness to different practices, attitudes, and cultures; does not necessarily mean agreement with the differences.
120. Tokenism: Hiring or seeking to have representation such as a few women and/or racial or ethnic minority persons so as to appear inclusive while remaining mono-cultural.
121. Transgender/Trans: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically assigned with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under the transgender umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms – including transgender.
122. Trans-misogyny: The negative attitudes, expressed through cultural hate, individual and state violence, and discrimination directed toward Trans women and transfeminine people.
123. Transphobia: Fear or hatred of transgender people; transphobia is manifested in a number of ways, including violence, harassment, and discrimination. This phobia can exist in LGB and straight communities.
124. Transsexual: One who identifies as a gender other than that of their biological sex.
125. Two Spirit: An umbrella term for a wide range of non-binary culturally recognized gender identities and expressions among Indigenous people. A Native American term for individuals who identify both as male and female. In western culture, these individuals are identified as lesbian, gay, bi‐sexual or trans-gender.
126. Unconscious Bias: Social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. They may be based on mistaken, inaccurate or incomplete information and include the personal histories we bring into a situation.
127. Undocumented: A foreign-born person living in the United States without legal citizenship status.
128. Veteran Status: Whether or not an individual has served in a nation’s armed forces (or other uniformed service).
129. Whiteness: A broad social construction that embraces the white culture, history, ideology, racialization, expressions, and economic, experiences, epistemology, and emotions and behaviors and nonetheless reaps material, political, economic, and structural benefits for those socially deemed white.
130. White Fragility: Discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.
131. White Privilege: White Privilege is the spillover effect of racial prejudice and White institutional power. It means, for example, that a White person in the United States has privilege, simply because one is White. It means that as a member of the dominant group a White person has greater access or availability to resources because of being White. White Privilege may be less recognizable to some White people because of gender, age, sexual orientation, economic class or physical or mental ability, but it remains a reality because of one’s membership in the White dominant group
132. White Supremacy: White supremacy is a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and individuals of color by white individuals and nations of the European continent for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.
133. Worldview: The perspective through which individuals view the world; comprised of their history, experiences, culture, family history, and other influences.
134. Xenophobia: Hatred or fear of foreigners/strangers or of their politics or culture.