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Inclusion & Engagement Glossary of Terms

The following is a glossary of terms and language commonly used in dialogue regarding inclusion and engagement. This is not a comprehensive list, as the meaning of these terms may evolve, and additional terms may be added.

If there is a term that you feel should be referenced in the glossary, please feel free to submit it for consideration.

A-G | H-P | Q-Z


Affiliation-based covering: this may take the form of avoiding behaviors or talking about events associated with their identity for fear of being outed.

Ally: Someone who supports a group other than their own (in terms of racial identity, gender, faith identity, sexual orientation, etc.). Allies acknowledge disadvantage and oppression of other groups; take risks and act on the behalf of others and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.

Appearance covering: covering up aspects of ones’ appearance, including attire, hairstyles, religious symbols, and mannerisms.


Cisgender: Individuals whose gender identity and expression line up with their birth-assigned sex.

Covering: Covering is a strategy through which individuals manage or downplay their differences. Covering can prevent an individual from bringing their authentic selves to work and hinder an organization from creating a true culture of inclusion.

Cultural Humility: A process of reflection and lifelong inquiry, involving self-awareness of personal and cultural biases as well as awareness and sensitivity to significant cultural issues of others. Core to the process of cultural humility is the persons deliberate reflection of her/his values and biases.


Diversity: Individual differences that include (but not limited to) ability, learning styles, life experiences, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, political, and religion.


Equality: Ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. 

It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.

Equality recognizes that historically certain groups of people with protected characteristics such as race, disability, sex and sexual orientation have experienced discrimination. 

Equity: The fair and just treatment of all members of a community. Equity requires commitment to strategic priorities, resources, respect, and civility, as well as ongoing action and assessment of progress toward achieving specified goals.


Gender identity: A person’s perception of their gender, which may or may not correspond with their birth sex.


Implicit bias/Unconscious bias: The attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions unconsciously. These biases are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.

Impostor syndrome: A phenomenon in which high-achieving individuals are unable to internalize their accomplishments and instead continuously fear being exposed as a “fraud.” Some research indicates that members of underrepresented groups are more likely to be affected by it than others.

Inclusion: A dynamic state of operating in which diversity is leveraged to create a fair, healthy, and high-performing organization or community. An inclusive environment ensures equitable access to resources and opportunities for all. It also enables individuals and groups to feel safe, respected, engaged, motivated, and valued, for who they are and for their contributions toward organizational and societal goals.

Intersectionality: The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender that can create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.


LGBTQIA: Acronym encompassing the diverse groups of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, intersex and asexual populations and allies/alliances/associations.


Meritocracy: Belief in the flawed idea that hard work and talent alone are all that’s needed to achieve success. Challenges like implicit bias, structural inequality and varying degrees of privilege or disadvantage mean meritocracy isn’t currently a reality.

Microaggression: This term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe the tiny, casual, almost imperceptible insults and degradation often felt by any marginalized group.


Nonbinary: Any gender identity that does not align to the historically traditional and binary definitions of male or female.


Passing: Racial passing occurs when a person classified as a member of one racial group is accepted (“passes”) as a member of another.

Pronouns: A consciously chosen set of pronouns that allow a person to represent their gender identity accurately. Pronouns include both gendered pronouns like “He” and “She” as well as gender-neutral pronouns like “They” and “Ze.”


Stereotype Promise: The promise of being viewed through the lens of a positive stereotype that leads one to perform in such a way that confirms the positive stereotype, thereby enhancing performance.

Stereotype Threat: Risk of confirming negative stereotypes about an individual’s racial, ethnic, gender, or cultural group which can create high cognitive load and reduce academic focus and performance.


Tokenism: The practice of including one or a few members of an underrepresented group in a team or company, without their having authority or power equal to that of other group members. This places a burden on an individual to represent all others like them. (Example: When the one person in an underrepresented group is consistently asked to speak about being a member of that group.)

Transgender: Individuals whose gender identity and expression is different than their birth-assigned sex.


Underrepresented group: This term describes any subset of a population that holds a smaller percentage within a significant subgroup than in the general population. For example, women are often an underrepresented group in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.


7 Protected Classes: Race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and handicap (disability).