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Affirmative Action Plans (AAPs)

Written plans that are required of federal contractors or subcontractors that have 50 or more employees with contracts of $50,000 or more. Other organizations can elect to have AAPs. An AAP ensures that there is documentation outlining the company’s steps to ensure DEI and setting goals for the following year based on previous year’s data.


The ongoing action of supporting others. It is an active practice where a person with privilege in a particular situation seeks to help a group or individuals with less privilege—usually those who are underrepresented and face institutional and interpersonal barriers due to their identity.



Occurs when people have a stake or say in the construction or reconstruction of that institution, structure, group, or community. They share a level of responsibility, power, agency and care for the institution and are valued, seen, and heard. It’s this process of co-creation and full participation that creates the feeling of belonging.


A tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others, and that usually results in treating some people unfairly.

Black Lives Matter (BLM)

A movement that was founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, and has since grown into a worldwide movement. Its aims are freedom, liberation, and justice for the Black community.

Business Resource Group (BRG)

A voluntary, employee-led group organized around a particular shared background, interest. See also Employee Resource Group.



The executive level managers of a company, often including the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Business Officer (CBO), and others.

Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)

An executive in the C-Suite that focuses on operationalizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their company or workplace.

Color-blind hiring

Viewing candidates as the same, regardless of their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities.

Computer Science (CS)

The discipline of learning, using, and teaching the science of computers, including algorithmic functions, data, use, and hardware.


Diverse Supplier Spend

The procurement dollars spent on businesses owned by people from underrepresented groups, often expressed as a proportion of total procurement spending.


The state of having people of different races, cultures, etc. in a group or organization.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

An approach recognizing the interconnectedness of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the importance of striving for equitable outcomes when trying to make progress in diversity and inclusion. DEI is a common function in organizations. See individual definitions for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.


Employee Resource Group (ERG)

A voluntary, employee-led group organized around a particular shared background, interest, or issue. See also Business Resource Group.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The U.S. Government office responsible for enforcing federal laws around the illegality of discrimination in the workplace, including firing, hiring, harrassment, wages, training, and benefits. In the U.S. it is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee for any reason based on the person’s race, color, religion, sex, origin, age, or disability/genetic information.


The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The guiding principle of equity acknowledges that there are marginalized and underrepresented populations and that fairness (not necessarily equal treatment) regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to ensure that all groups have equal access to opportunities.

Equity Advocates

Individuals or organizations that take action personally and/or collectively to create a more inclusive culture.

Ethics‑based approach

A framework for decision‑making in situations where right and wrong, good and bad, are not clearly defined. This framework addresses issues of fairness and social justice where different schools of thought and ethical standards exist; when various choices can be made, and different paths can be chosen. Different traditions, cultures, countries, and religions may choose different outcomes and priorities suited to specific needs and sensitivities.



A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities and behaviors that are expected to align with a person’s biological sex. Gender is often conflated with sex; however, this is inaccurate, because sex refers to bodies (i.e., male, female, intersex) and gender identity includes one’s sense of self and the interplay of physical, emotional, and biological traits. Gender identity characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. Words that describe gender include man, woman, cisgender, transgender, masculine, feminine, non-binary, and gender queer.


Believing that talent and ability are not fixed or predetermined, but that we can grow and change through “hard work, good strategies, and input from others.”



Hispanic refers to people with Spanish-speaking origins. Latino/a historically refers to people from Latin America. However, Latinx has grown in use and acceptance as the gender-expansive term for people from this region, as it is inclusive of transgender and non-binary individuals. Hispanic does not include Latin Americans of Portuguese origin or Portuguese speakers (e.g., Brazilians). Some Hispanic/Latinx people find the term Hispanic problematic due to Spain’s colonial history. While there has been growing use of the term Latinx among younger and LGBTQ+ communities, the vast majority of Hispanic/Latinx Americans today refer to themselves as Hispanic.

Human‑rights‑based approach

Focusing on the experiences of the most vulnerable and a holistic recognition of what all members of society need in order to live with dignity and thrive. Based on internationally recognized laws and standards; a common standard of achievement for all people–established rights that should always be protected and respected.



The act or practice of creating environments in which an individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.

Inclusive culture

A system where all members can thrive, feel a sense of belonging, contribute their abilities and perspectives, and receive credit and recognition for these contributions.


The way people’s social identities overlap to create multiple levels of privilege, power, inequality, or discrimination.



Hispanic refers to people with Spanish-speaking origins. Latinx refers to people from Latin America, is the gender neutral term for Latino and Latina, and is inclusive of non-binary groups. Hispanic does not include Latin Americans of Portuguese origin or Portuguese speakers (e.g., Brazilians). Some Hispanic/Latinx people find the term Hispanic problematic due to Spain’s colonial history. But while there has been growing use of the term Latinx among younger and LGBTQ+ communities, the vast majority of Hispanic/Latinx Americans today refer to themselves as Hispanic.


An acronym often used as a catch-all term to include people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer + Questioning, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit (2S), androgynous, asexual, and/or any other sexual identity group.


Machine learning (ML)

A subset of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and enables machines to learn how to solve problems or complete tasks by themselves.

Mansfield Rule

An initiative conducted by Diversity Lab and adopted by law firms to ensure that at least 30% percent of candidates for leadership positions are women, from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, LGBTQ+, or people with disabilities.

Market available talent pool (MATP or MAT)

The pool of workers who could realistically be hired for a given role based on the requisite skills, education, experience, and, in some cases, geography required for that role.


An organizational system that promotes workers and winners on the basis of ability or skill (merit). While long believed to be “fair,” it ranks those with access to privilege above others (see Preparatory Privilege).


Remarks, questions, or actions that are painful, demeaning, or insensitive because they have to do with a person’s perceived membership of a group that is marginalized or subject to stereotypes. They can happen casually, frequently, and without intent to cause harm. They can even be meant as a compliment or a joke–which is why they can often feel confusing and disconcerting.

Minimum viable product

The version of a new product with just enough features to be usable by early customers, who can then provide feedback for future product development. It allows a team to collect the maximum amount of information with the least effort.



Usually refers to the number of units in a sample size, e.g., the number of employees, products, households, or any other group under observation.


Paradigm shift

A fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.

Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)

The synthesis of an educator’s pedagogical or teaching knowledge of the profession of teaching and knowledge of the subject matter.

Preparatory privilege

The perception of enhanced ability, usually reserved for those who attended well-resourced schools that provide rigorous preparation.

Product Inclusion

Creating products and services that reflect the world around us. It involves keeping the diversity of users in mind when developing your products and services so that they work for everyone and not just the majority.


Race-conscious hiring

Hiring measures that actively take into account a person’s racial or ethnic identity.

Rooney Rule

A U.S. National Football League policy requiring teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs (e.g., general manager).


SMART goals

Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. These are useful standards in generating goals that can be accomplished.

Systemic racism

How the practices, policies, behaviors, and norms that perpetuate racial group inequity and racism are baked into the systems themselves. This isn't about individuals behaving in racist ways. It is about how even well-meaning people end up participating in systems that are inherently racist. It is a structural problem that requires a structural solution. See these resources: “Structural and Systemic Racism” from the Aspen Institute, “Unearthing the Roots of Systemic Racism” from Insead Business School, and “The Roots of Structural Racism” from the Othering & Belonging Institute.

Systems thinking

An approach that requires one to analyze events and patterns of behavior over time, and then identify “high leverage points” on areas that will drive greatest change.


Talent Myth

An untrue belief that a person’s ability is a fixed asset and something that people either have or don’t have. In fact, talent grows with exposure, repeated practice, and the experience of being stretched and challenged.


Underrepresented groups

Groups that are less represented in one subset (e.g., the workplace) than their representation in the general population. These groups have often been excluded due to systemic barriers, and may be at the margins of power—often women, LGBTQ+ communities, Black, Indigenous, people of color, people with disabilities, or those with the least wealth.