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Glossary of Professional Development Terms



There are lots of buzzwords out there when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. It's important that we understand what they mean, how and when to use them, and more importantly, use this knowledge to create better working environments within our own organizations. Here are the definitions of some key terms.


Ally - a person who takes action against oppression out of a belief that eliminating oppression will benefit members of targeted groups and advantage groups. Allies acknowledge disadvantage and oppression of groups other than their own, take supportive action on their behalf, commit to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of these groups, and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.


BIPOC - an acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The term has increased in use and awareness during 2020 after the Black Lives Matter resurgence against racism and police brutality in the wake of the George Floyd shooting. BIPOC is meant to emphasize the particular hardships faced by Black and Indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada and is also meant to acknowledge that not all people of color face the same levels of injustice.


Culture - a social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors and styles of communication.


Diversity - psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among any and all individuals, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, and learning styles. A diverse group, community, or organization is one in which a variety of social and cultural characteristics exist.


Emotional Tax - the combination of being on guard to protect against bias and feeling different from peers at work because of gender, race, and/or ethnicity and the associated effects on health, well-being, and ability to thrive at work. It particularly affects BIPOC employees.


Equality - evenly distributed access to resources and opportunity necessary for a safe and healthy life; uniform distribution of access to ensure fairness.


Equity - the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.


Inclusion - the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.


LGBTQIA - an acronym for “Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Questioning Intersex Allies.” The description of the movement expanded from gay and lesbian to LGBTQ and some include questioning, intersex, allies, same-gender-loving, asexual, pansexual and polyamorous.


Microaggressions - the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.


Unconscious Bias - the subliminal tendency to favor certain people or groups of people based upon learned stereotypes. It can be interchangeable with the term “implicit bias. It refers to social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.


White Fragility - a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable for white people, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.


White Privilege - refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. White people who experience such privilege may or may not be conscious of it.


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