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Diversity Glossary

​Health Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Glossary


Ableism: Discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. Ableism classifies entire groups of people as "less than," and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities. (Olson, 2020)

Ageism: The stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups based on their age. Ageism can take many forms, including prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory practices, or institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs. (World Health Organization, 2020)

Agent or Privileged Identity Groups: Social groups that have an unearned advantage over others because they are considered superior, independent or "normal." Individuals in these groups are afforded agency – they have access to resources and decision-making power. (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020)

Ally: A member of the agent social group (someone in a power role) who takes a stand against social injustice directed at target groups (those in non-power roles) and intervenes on their behalf. (Adams & Bell, 2016)

Antiracism: The active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies, practices, procedures and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Antiracist: One who expresses the idea that racial groups are equals and none needs developing, and who supports policy that reduces racial inequity. (Kendi, 2019) Antiracists work to understand:

  • How racism affects the lived experience of Blacks, Indigenous people, Asians, Latinos, Latinas or those with Hispanic heritage, Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders, or other people of color;
  • How racism is systemic, and has been part of many foundational aspects of society throughout history, and can be manifested in both individual attitudes and behaviors as well as formal and informal ("unspoken") policies and practices within institutions; and
  • How white people participate, often unknowingly, in racism. (Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, 2020)



  • Explicit Bias: Consciously accepting prejudice in favor of, or against one group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
  • Implicit or Unconscious Bias: Consciously rejecting prejudice and stereotypes, and supportive of anti-discrimination efforts, while unconsciously holding negative associations that can affect one's judgment and decision-making. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

BIPOC: This acronym stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color. (Garcia, 2020)

Bullying: Unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying may include making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and/or excluding someone from a group on purpose. (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020) In a healthcare environment, bullying can occur in interactions where power is misused, support is inadequate, and individuals do not feel they can defend themselves due to the inherent hierarchy in medicine. Examples include insulting remarks or verbal badgering from patients or their family members, co-workers, leaders or physicians, especially while under pressure to ensure high quality, safe patient care. (Ariza-Montes, Muniz, Montero-Simó, & Araque-Padilla, 2013)

Bystander: A person who is present at an incident or event but does not speak up to end the disrespect or to support individuals that are being disrespected. (Ancona, Kochan, & Scully, 2004)


Cisgender: Someone whose gender identity aligns with the characteristics typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020)

Cissexism: The discrimination against, and oppression of, transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people. (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020)

Collusion: Ways that members of agent and target groups think and act, often unconsciously, that support oppressive systems and maintain the status quo. (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020)

Colonization: The process of assuming control of someone else's territory and applying one's own legal, governmental and religious systems in large-scale settlements, and in doing so, encroaching on the land, resources, and ways of life of Indigenous people, thereby dominating and oppressing the Indigenous people, with little to no remuneration to them. (Facing HIstory and Ourselves, 2020)

Conscious Inclusion: How one thinks, believes and demonstrates inclusive behaviors in all situations. Conscious inclusion principles: Demonstrate empathy, communicate authentically, embrace differences, manage privilege and act courageously. (The Kaleidoscope Group, 2018)

Classism: The institutional, cultural, and individual set of beliefs and discrimination that assigns differential value to people according to their socioeconomic background; and an economic system that creates excessive inequality and causes basic human needs to go unmet. (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020)

Cultural Appropriation: This occurs when one cultural group takes over the creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices of another cultural group. It is generally used to describe Western appropriations of non-Western or non-white forms, and the term connotes exploitation and dominance by the more powerful Western or white groups over their non-Western or non-white counterparts. Cultural appropriation perpetuates stereotypes and oppression. (Johnson, 2015), (Oxford University Press, 2020)

Cultural Humility: The ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented (or open to another) in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the other person. (Hook, 2013) Three factors can advance cultural humility: 1) a commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998); 2) the knowledge that this learning is never finished – it is lifelong; and 3) a state of being humble and flexible, with the boldness to express that we do not know, and may not ever be able to know fully, another person's experience. (Waters & Asbill, 2020)

Culture: The integrated patterns of human behavior that include the thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious or social groups. The norms shared by a group and passed from generation to generation. How people experience the world around them (Lum, 2010) A shorthand definition of organizational culture is: "the way we do things around here." (Schein, 2010)


Decolonization: This involves valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches and dismantling any unwanted legal, governmental, religious, and other systems that settlers created during colonization. The process of decolonization includes weeding out settler biases and assumptions that have affected Indigenous people. For non-Indigenous people, decolonization is the process of examining one's beliefs about Indigenous people and culture by learning about yourself in relationship to the communities where you live and work, and the people with whom you interact. (Monkman, 2018)

Discrimination: To make distinctions based on preference or prejudice, including any situation in which a group or individual is treated differently, and sometimes unfairly, based on their membership in a socially distinct group or category, including, but not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, social class, veteran status, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical value system, national origin and political beliefs. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Diversity: The range of human differences represented in all stakeholders in a group or organization. Differences can include, but are not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, social class, veteran status, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical value system, national origin and political beliefs. (The Kaleidoscope Group, 2018)


Environmental Racism: The disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. Environmental justice is the movement's response to environmental racism. (GreenAction, 2020)

Equality / Equity: The distinction between these terms is important. We are told that to be fair, we must treat everyone the same (equality). However, when we recognize the legacy of structural racism that exists across institutions (organizations, schools, government, etc.), we understand that differing people and communities need different resources (equity).

  • Equality is sameness, where every individual or group receives the same resources. Sameness is not always fairness if the oppressed group remains disadvantaged.
  • Equity is a measure of fair treatment, opportunities and outcomes across race, ethnicity, gender, social class and other dynamics. To be equitable, we provide specific, unique resources that support people and communities so their basic needs are met, and individuals and groups can reach their full potential. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Ethnicity: Social and cultural forms of identification and self-identification. Members of an ethnic group identify with a common ancestry and common characteristics such as language, religion, tribe, nationality or a combination of these. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017), (United Nations, 2020)


Gatekeeper: Anyone in an institutional or organizational role who can grant or deny access to institutional resources or equity. Gatekeepers are, by structural design, accountable to the institutions they work for, and not the people they serve. They function as buffers between their institutions and the community. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Gender: A social construct based on a group of emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics. Gender can have several components including gender identity, gender expression and gender role. Gender is personal and specific to every individual, as everyone interprets gender differently. (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020)

Gender Dysphoria: Clinically significant distress caused when a person's assigned birth gender is not the same as the one with which they identify. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the term, which replaces Gender Identity Disorder, "is intended to better characterize the experiences of affected children, adolescents, and adults." (PFLAG National, 2020)

Gender Expansive: This term is sometimes used to describe people that expand notions of gender expression and identity beyond the expected gender norms for their society or context. Some gender-expansive individuals identify as men or women, some identify as neither, and others identify as a mix of both. Gender-expansive people feel that they exist psychologically between genders, as on a spectrum, or beyond the man/woman paradigm. These individuals sometimes prefer using gender-neutral pronouns (see Personal Gender Pronouns). They may or may not be comfortable with their bodies as they are, regardless of how they express their gender. (PFLAG National, 2020)

Gender Expression: How one outwardly expresses gender, either consciously or unconsciously. For example, it can be expressed through one's behavior, voice, haircut and/or clothing, any of which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being masculine or feminine. There are countless combinations of gender expression that may incorporate feminine, masculine or neither (through androgynous expressions). This expression may or may not reflect, or automatically imply, one's gender identity or sexual orientation. (HRC, 2020), (PFLAG National, 2020)

Gender Identity: A person's self-concept as male, female, a blend of both, or neither gender, including how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves (i.e., woman, man, or any number of other gender identities). Gender identity can be the same or different from the sex assigned to a person at birth. (HRC, 2020) (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020)

Gender Nonconforming: An outdated term to describe people who view their gender identity as one of many possible genders beyond man or woman. PFLAG National uses the term gender expansive. (PFLAG National, 2020)

Genderqueer: Individuals who self-identify as a blend of man and woman, neither man nor woman, or both man and woman, or someone who rejects commonly held notions of static gender identities and, occasionally, sexual orientations. This term is sometimes used in much the same way that the term queer is used, but specifically in reference to gender. However, the term should only be used when self-identifying or quoting someone who self-identifies as genderqueer. (PFLAG National, 2020)


Health Equity: This occurs when everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Requirements for health equity include removing obstacles to health such as poverty and discrimination and their consequences (which can include powerlessness and lack of access to health care, safe environments, housing, quality education and good jobs with fair pay). (UCSF Center for Health Equity, 2020) , (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2020)

Health Disparities: Differences in health outcomes, and what determines health outcomes, among segments of the population, as defined by social, demographic, environmental and geographic attributes. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Heterosexism: The belief that heterosexuality is the only normal and acceptable sexual orientation. This system of values encompasses the individual, cultural, and institutional beliefs and discrimination that systematically oppress people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ). (Adams & Bell, 2016) (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020)

Hispanic: This refers to individuals of Spanish-speaking descent, which includes people who hail from Spain and Latin America (except Brazil, where Portuguese is the national language). (Marcano, 2017)

Homophobia: The fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, people who are attracted to members of the same sex, which may result in prejudice or discrimination against them. (HRC, 2020)


Inclusion: Valuing and leveraging differences to achieve superior results, by fighting against exclusion and all the social ailments it gives birth to, such as racism, sexism, ableism, etc. Advancing inclusion also involves ensuring that all support systems are available to those who need such support. (Asante, 1997)

Indigenous: This is a term used to identify people who practice unique traditions and "retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Spread across the world from the Arctic to the South Pacific, they are the descendants - according to a common definition - of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means." (United Nations, 2020)

In-Groups: A group of people who identify with each other based on similarities, including gender identity or expression, race, religion and geography.(McCombs School of Business, Univ. of Texas, 2020)

Individual Racism: Prejudgment, bias or discrimination by an individual against another individual or group based on race. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Institutional Racism: Policies, practices, and procedures within an institution that are better for white people than for people of color, often unintentionally or inadvertently. This is also known as systemic racism. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Institutions: Stable organizational structures, arrangements and practices through which collective actions are taken (e.g., government, for-profit businesses, unions, schools, churches, hospitals and clinics, media, courts and law enforcement. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Intersectionality: The various ways in which race, gender identity or expression, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation and other individual characteristics intersect with one another. This can result in overlapping types of discrimination or oppression of individuals in the intersecting groups. (Crenshaw, 1991)



  • Economic Justice: The moral principles that guide us in building economic institutions, the goal of which is to create opportunity for each person to earn a living, enter into contracts, exchange goods and services with others, and otherwise produce an independent personal economic foundation. Economic justice frees each individual to engage the mind and spirit creatively in work beyond economics.
  • Social Justice: The virtue that guides us in creating organized, just institutions that provide equitable economic, political and social rights and access to opportunities for everyone, particularly those in greatest need. Social justice also imposes a personal responsibility to work with others, at whatever level of the "Common Good" in which we participate, to design and continually improve our institutions as means for personal and social development. (Center for Economic and Social Justice, 2018) (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)


Latinx: This is a gender-neutral term for someone whose ethnic origin or ancestry is from anywhere in Latin America. (Marcano, 2017)

LGBTQ+: An acronym that collectively refers to persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. Q can also stand for questioning, referring to individuals who are still exploring their sexuality and/or gender identity. The "+" represents people for whom the term LGBTQ does not accurately reflect their identity. (PFLAG National, 2020)


Marginalization: Reducing people's power and/or the importance of their work such that they feel excluded, unvalued and/or unable to have their voices heard. Examples include not offering equal access to resources or opportunities because of someone's identity (racism, heterosexism, ableism, etc.); making assumptions that a person has succeeded only because of their identity; and isolating people from information or relationships by not including them in meetings or decision-making. All of these may result in barriers to advancement in an organization or other institution. (Castle, 2019)

Micro-affirmation: Small messages of kindness and inclusion that embrace differences and are demonstrated across "in-groups" and "out-groups." (The Kaleidoscope Group, 2018)

Microaggressions: Brief, commonplace, subtle or blatant, daily verbal behavior or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color or other groups. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Microinequity: Subtle or hidden messages of disrespect, bias or pre-judgment that are typically demonstrated unconsciously, most often with "out-groups." (The Kaleidoscope Group, 2018)

Multiculturalism: A system of beliefs and behaviors that recognizes and respects the presence of all diverse groups in an organization or society, acknowledges and values their socio-cultural differences, and encourages and enables their continued contribution within an inclusive cultural context that empowers all people in the organization or society. (Rosado, 2006)


Neurodiversity: The infinite diversity in neurocognitive functioning within human minds. According to Walker (2020), "Neurodiversity is a biological fact. It's not a perspective, an approach, a belief, a political position, or a paradigm. Neurodiversity is not a political or social activist movement."(National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020), (Walker, 2020)

Non-binary: An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between or somewhere completely outside these categories. It is an identity term that some people use exclusively, while others may use it interchangeably with terms like genderqueer, gender creative, gender nonconforming, gender diverse, or gender expansive. Individuals who identify as nonbinary may understand the identity as falling under the transgender umbrella and may thus identify as transgender, though not all non-binary people do. Sometimes abbreviated as NB or Enby. (HRC, 2020), (PFLAG National, 2020)


Oppression: A form of economic, social, and/or political exploitation, often portrayed as "good for everybody." Oppression affirms a two-category system hierarchically arranged as agents (superior) and targets (inferior). This hierarchy results in a gross imbalance of power. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Out-Groups: People who do not belong to a specific in-group. When someone in the perceived in-group does not behave well, the inclination is for other in-group members to dismiss the behavior. But when someone in an out-group behaves similarly, we tend to judge their behavior more harshly.(McCombs School of Business, Univ. of Texas, 2020)

Personal Gender Pronouns: Sometimes called proper gender pronouns, these are the set of pronouns that a person uses and would like others to use when talking to, or about, that individual. Since in English, singular pronouns are associated with a specific gender, some individuals may prefer gender-neutral or gender-inclusive pronouns. For example, in English, some people use "they" and "their" as gender-neutral singular pronouns. Others use "ze" (sometimes spelled zie) and "hir/zir," or the pronouns" xe" and "xer." The term personal gender pronouns replaces the phrase preferred gender pronouns, which incorrectly implies that their use is optional. (PFLAG National, 2020)


POC: This acronym stands for people of color.

Power (Institutional): The social, political and economic strength that provides access to resources and decision-makers and the ability to influence others to accomplish what you want done. (Newton, 1972) (Adams & Bell, 2016) (Asante, 1997), (Adair, Howell, & Aal, 2017)

Privilege: Unearned advantages given to those in the dominant group (typically in the U.S., this involves whites, males, Christians, heterosexuals, etc.). Privileges are bestowed unintentionally, unconsciously and automatically. Privileges are often invisible to dominant groups. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)


Queer: Some people use this term to describe themselves and/or their community, particularly to express fluid identities. Because it originally was used as a negative descriptor for people who are gay, queer is still sometimes disliked within the LGBTQ+ community. Due to its varying meanings, this word should only be used when self-identifying, or to describe someone who self-identifies as queer (e.g., "My uncle identifies as queer"). (PFLAG National, 2020)


Race: A specious classification of people that assigns human worth and social status using skin color and other visible characteristics for the purpose of establishing and maintaining privilege and power. Race is a social and political construct. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017), (California Newsreel, 2020).

Racial Disparities: Differences in measurable societal outcomes based on race. These disparities are rooted in unfairness and injustice and are perpetuated by policies and practices with racial bias (either implicit or explicit). (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Racial Equity: When social, economic and political opportunities and outcomes are not predicted based upon a person's race. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Racial Inequity: When a person's race can predict their social, economic and political opportunities and outcomes. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Racial Justice: Work to eliminate racial disparities resulting from individual, institutional and structural racism. Equitable outcomes for all are central to racial justice efforts. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Racism: The individual, cultural, and institutional beliefs and discrimination that systematically oppress people of color. Race Prejudice + Power = Racism. (Adams & Bell, 2016) (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020), (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)


Second-Hand Disrespect: The disrespectful effects of an interaction that extend beyond the individuals directly involved to everyone who witnesses and experiences the interaction.

Sex: The sex (male or female) given to a child at birth, most often based on the child's external anatomy. This is also referred to as "assigned sex at birth." (HRC, 2020)

Sexism: The individual, cultural, and institutional beliefs and discrimination that systematically oppress women. (Adams & Bell, 2016), (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2020)

Sexual Orientation: An inherent and enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. (HRC, 2020)

Social Determinants of Health: Conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

SOGIE: This stands for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. It is an inclusive term, because everyone has these three characteristics in some form. (Chong, 2016)

Stereotype: A fixed, over-generalized belief about a group, or class of people, often assumed to be true. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Structural Racism: The history and current reality of racism across all institutions. This creates a social and political system that negatively affects communities of color. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)


Target Groups: Disenfranchised or exploited social identity groups. (Diggs-Hobson & Horn, 2017)

Targeted Universalism: Setting universal goals while applying targeted processes and strategies to achieve those goals. Within this framework, universal goals are established for all groups concerned. Then, strategies are targeted based upon how different groups are situated within structures, culture, and across geographies to obtain the universal goal. While typically the targets start with those who are most marginalized, targeted universalism can also support the needs of the powerful or those in the majority. This approach reminds everyone that we are all part of the same social and civic fabric. (powell, Mendian, & Ake, 2019)

Transgender: A person whose gender identity and/or expression does not necessarily match their assigned sex at birth. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity. Transgender is also used as an umbrella term to describe groups of people who transcend conventional expectations of gender identity or expression—such as people who identify as transsexual, genderqueer, gender diverse, androgynous and/or other identities. Being transgender does not imply any particular sexual orientation, thus transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc. (HRC, 2020), (PFLAG National, 2020)

Transphobia: Fear or hatred of, or discomfort with, transgender people, which may result in prejudice or discrimination against them. (HRC, 2020)


Upstander: A person who stands up for someone who is being harassed or disrespected. For example, upstanders call out bullies for their behavior, whether the act is taking place in front of them, down the hall or online. (Facing History and Ourselves, 2020)


White Fragility: A state in which even small amounts of racial stress trigger a range of defensive behaviors. These include displays of anger, fear and guilt, as well as argumentation, silence, and removing oneself from the stressful situation. (DiAngelo, 2018)

White Privilege: The unseen, unconscious, unearned advantages that whites have that people of color do not have due to the color of their skin. This privilege results in greater ability to influence systemic decisions, some of which have resulted in institutional and structural inequities. White privilege is both a legacy and cause of racism.(Collins, 2018), (McIntosh, 1989)


Xenophobia: Extreme dislike or fear of foreigners, their customs, their religions, their cultural practices, etc., which may result in prejudice or discrimination. (Cambridge English Dictionary, 2020)