Diversity refers to the inclusion of a wide range of people from different backgrounds. Examples of diversity include gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic, age, cultural, religious, and political diversity.
Today, diversity is highly valued because it strengthens social groups. It strengthens a workplace because it casts a wide net of viewpoints to ensure the widest range of consumers will be targeted. Similarly, in media, diversity is valued because representation of a diverse range of cast members means children of all backgrounds and orientations can have role models to look up to.
1. Gender Diversity
Gender diversity refers to ensuring people of all genders are included. Whereas once we thought of this as simply men and women, today we also look at gender diversity to include trans and gender non-conforming people.
In politics, we see parties aiming for gender parity in their caucus. Traditionally, politics has been the domain of men, but increasingly, we’re seeing countries like Canada achieving gender parity in government.
Gender diversity may also refer to the inclusion of gender non-conforming, trans, and other gender identities without prejudice. It includes accepting and referring to people by their preferred pronouns, and pursuing gender equality in pay, rank, and power distribution.
2. Racial Diversity
Racial diversity refers to the inclusion of people of a range of different races into a process. Examples of races include black, white, Asian, and Native American.
Race is a biological classification that refers to a person’s background (although, it also can be considered a social construct).
Racial diversity is something that is valued in media these days. We’ll see that many films and television shows are making a concerted effort to ensure that people of a range of races are depicted in a range of roles. This includes ensuring people of color are depicted as protagonists, which can have the effect of helping young people of color see strong role models they can look up to.
3. Ethnic Diversity
Whereas racial diversity refers to a biological categorization, ethnic diversity refers to a cultural and social categorization. For example, while Asian may be a race, we can identify a range of Asian ethnicities: Han-Chinese, Japanese, Rohingya, Thai, Uyghurs, Tagalog people, and so on.
We can see, for example, that in some countries that are quite racially homogenous, there are still a wide range of ethnic groups.
In Myanmar, ethnic groups include the Bamar, Rohingya, Karen, Shan, Karenni, and Rakhine people (among others). Similarly, in India, there is a range of ethnicities that traditionally fitted into a set of caste systems. India now has a diversity policy that has quotas for the inclusion of people of the major ethnic groups in government roles.
4. Age Diversity
Age diversity refers to the inclusion of people from a spectrum of ages and seasons of life. The typical example here is the inclusion of elderly people for their experience, and young for their enthusiasm.
Age diversity might be important when constructing a hospital, for example, because people from newborns to extremely old people will need to have access to the space. This will mean that mothers’ strollers and prams will need to be accommodated for, as well as wheelchairs for elderly people.
Another instance in which age diversity needs to be considered is in opinion polling. If you only polled people in their 30s, you may find that there is a skewed interest toward childcare policies. If you only polled people in their 70s, healthcare policy may be highly important but childcare policy is low on their priority list. By ensuring a diverse range of ages in polling, you can get a less biased representation of the general opinion of the populace.
5. Experience Diversity
A workplace might want diversity of experience in order to enhance the quality of the team.
Take, for example, a principal of a brand new school picking out his teachers.
He might want some teachers who have been in education for 30 years. They will bring a wealth of pedagogical knowledge that can be spread throughout the faculty. They can show everyone the best ways to teach and help their peers through difficult situations in the classroom.
But, he might also want a range of teachers who have got a lot of experience in the workforce. They can bring some workforce readiness skills and real-life experience into the classrooms that will enrich the students’ experiences.
Lastly, he might employ a few teachers straight out of university who have the newest research on the best teaching methods to bring a new, progressive, educational style into the school.
6. Socioeconomic Status Diversity
Socioeconomic status refers to a person’s wealth. It also closely tracks with ‘working-class’, ‘middle-class’, and ‘upper-class’ social stratification.
Historically, some professions have been exclusive and exclusionary of some people of lower socioeconomic statuses. For example, the medical profession has long locked out people of low socioeconomic status because it’s so expensive to get a university degree.
But socioeconomic status (SES) can be extremely valuable. In politics, for example, having members of your team who are from working-class backgrounds can help give you some input on how low SES people might be affected by (and react to) changes when it comes to taxation or welfare payments.
7. Ability Diversity
Ability diversity refers to the inclusion of people with a range of abilities and disabilities. For example, people with physical and cognitive disabilities could be included in a setting with small adjustments to ensure they are accommodated.
The quintessential example is to simply ensure that people in wheelchairs have physical access to a space. If a shop only has steps to enable entry to a space, then you can install a ramp so people in wheelchairs can get access.
Similarly, a person who struggles with dyslexia, for example, could be included in a workplace with the small adjustment of providing information both in writing and via audio. This way, people with dyslexia can listen to memos and get all the required information to do their jobs.
8. Nation of Origin Diversity
Nation of origin diversity refers to the inclusion of people of a range of different nationalities. This is of concern to immigrants who may find that they are subtly excluded from opportunities in their new country because of an implicit bias against immigrants (which is related to ethno-nationalism).
A workplace may include nation of origin in a diversity census to see whether they have an unconscious bias in their hiring practices toward only local-born people. For example, if a company has 1000 employees but 990 (1%) of them are born in the country, it could be seen as a problem. Especially if, as with countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia, up to 30% of the population is born overseas!
9. Sexual Orientation Diversity
Inclusion of LGBTQI+ people has become an important consideration in recent years. A watershed occurred in the early 2010s when western societies started to insist on the inclusion of people of a range of sexual orientations.
Sexual orientation diversity may be highly valuable for brands when trying to market their products. They may find that LGBTQI+ is an untapped niche of consumers who they can target their product for.
Similarly, a company may take pride in promoting the fact that they are a welcoming space for people of a range of sexual orientations. This both underpins their commitment to diversity and attracts a clientele who values inclusions and will prefer to be patrons of companies that have made an effort to create a more equal and inclusive world.
10. Cultural Diversity
Some societies have a range of cultural groups. In fact, we have a very logical name for those societies: multiculturalism!
In a multicultural society, you’d want to ensure cultural diversity isn’t just represented in demographic data, but also in the inclusion of people of a range of cultures across the public sphere.
Cultural diversity is often very important, for example, in the arts. An art exhibit may want to ensure a range of cultures are represented in the artworks in order to demonstrate the great diversity in society. Whereas once art exhibits may have had a very ethnocentric presentation, today, we often see art exhibits showing native artwork and the artworks of immigrants who bring their own styles with their own worldviews and interpretations.
11. Religious Diversity
Religious diversity is important in secular societies so that the dominant religious group isn’t overly domineering and infringing on the rights of minority religions and atheists.
Historically, some societies have attempted to oppress and eliminate religious groups that are not part of the dominant culture. For example, the Spanish inquisition attempted to enforce Catholicism as the only religion in Spain.
Today, most western nations embrace religious diversity and even enforce it in law. This means that people from all religions should be welcomed in all areas of public life. To go further, a company may examine its policies and realize they don’t have policies that are welcoming to certain religions. In response, they may implement policies that ensure, for example, Muslims can take time off to celebrate Ramadan while Christians can take time off to celebrate Easter.
12. Skill Diversity
Skill diversity can be important in teams where a range of creative, practical, and analytical mindsets can come together to collaborate and create solutions to complex problems.
You might have experienced the need for skill diversity at university when working in teams to complete assignments. A team might have a person who is excellent at technology, another great project manager, and another person who is good at presentations. Clearly, you’d want to distribute team roles accordingly. The tech person can make the slides for the presentation, the project manager can distribute tasks, and the presenter is the person on the day who will do the talking!
13. Political Diversity
Political diversity is a controversial topic today. In the age of ‘cancel culture’, you’ll find people on the left and right of the political spectrum who feel as if there is not enough representation of views in the media.
Social media has both increased and decreased political diversity. On the one hand, a wide range of niche media markets have emerged for a range of political viewpoints. You can go on YouTube and consume media of any political perspective that you want.
But at the same time, people now only consume media that supports their own political views, meaning political diversity has led to polarization.
Similarly, you seen on major media outlets like Fox news and MSNBC that political diversity is lacking. They stack the ranks with people who only support one viewpoint, leading to narrow news reporting.
14. Educational Diversity
There has long been a problem with educational diversity that has colloquially been termed the ‘old boy’s club’. This refers to companies that exclusively employ people who have been to certain schools.
For example, some law firms have been critiqued for only employing people from Ivy League universities.
This has a range of problems. The first and most obvious is that it excludes a range of very high-quality candidates. It is very similar to nepotism, where people only employ others who are of the same stripes as themselves.
But another problem is the fact that people from lower-tier state universities have a range of other great values and personal skills that are overlooked. For example, the person who came from a working-class family work struggled their way through university, while also working two jobs, is a harder worker and has greater perseverance than the person who went to an Ivy League university but had everything paid for by mommy and daddy!
15. Location Diversity
Location diversity refers to a diversity of people who live in a range of different locations. It’s a valuable asset in politics, as well as other spheres of life.
Take, for example, a political party that only represents and reflects the values of people from the inner city. This party may have great success in cities, but will never have a chance to get into government.
Rather, the political party should include a diversity of people who live in different locations (including rural people, such as farmers) in order to more effectively appeal to the whole population. By developing strong policies that appeal to farmers and rural people, the party would be able to appeal to people who don’t live in cities and, therefore, could get closer to winning an election.
In the 21st Century, diversity has become an incredibly important consideration for companies, governments, and other public organizations. A focus on diversity can increase inclusion, widen consumer markets, and create a fairer and more inclusive society.
Diversity comes in a range of different ways. Above, I’ve explored 15 different examples of diversity, although there are surely many more different types of diversity that companies and organizations need to consider in order to more effectively include all members of society to create a better world for everyone.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.