Why Diversity and Inclusion Are Not the Same


It is everywhere right now. The title “Diversity and Inclusion” is proudly announcing its appearance across headlines in many industries. From new committees in the newsroom, to increased funding at universities and active high fashion advisory councils, “diversity and inclusion” is a buzzword that is having a moment. As it should! To create a healthier multicultural society for all, “diversity and inclusion” needs to be at the forefront of all business decisions and actions.

But as leaders in the multicultural marketplace, do we really understand what “diversity and inclusion” means? Specifically, what the relationship and difference is between the two concepts? Can one exist without the other? Our understanding of “diversity and inclusion” will guide the decisions that bring success to our companies and positive experiences for our internal teams and consumers.

The truth is that diversity does not mean inclusion, and inclusion does not mean diversity.

What is Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity is inevitably about differences. It is about gathering different backgrounds, ethnicities and perspectives to have a voice at the table in the workplace, as well as representing and reaching audiences through multicultural marketing and work. Though many believe this is where the conclusion of “diversity and inclusion” ends, it is actually only where it begins.

Inclusion, on the other hand, is not synonymous with diversity. Inclusion is an invitation for people to feel seen, known and safe. Most research covers the importance of an inclusive culture at the workplace, but inclusivity also applies to our market reach. Frankly, we can represent every kind of person in our marketing collateral without promoting inclusivity. If we don’t make the conscious, empathetic effort to truly know who our audience is and create messages and cultures that make people feel seen and understood, we have not stepped into inclusion as effectively as we could have.

How do Diversity and Inclusion relate?

We can strive toward diversity and still exclude people from conversations and implicitly or explicitly make people feel like they don’t belong. Diversity without inclusivity is essentially tokenism. And inclusivity without diversity is separation and exclusivity. As leaders, accompanied by a Diversity & Inclusion title or not, it is our responsibility to raise our standards and fight for the sweet spot of both diversity and inclusivity to be present in both the work and consumer marketplace.

“Diversity and inclusion” is not a trend we could get on board with as leaders or managers, it is a complex necessity required for ethical high-standing and future business success. As cultures around the globe only continue to diversify, understanding inclusivity in our promotion of diversity is crucial for reaching people effectively and respectfully. If we can create content, influence internal cultures and design products and services in light of the unique relationship between “diversity and inclusion”, we can be frontrunners in our industries.

By Taylor Kanigowski