There’s been a lot of chatter about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Whether it’s talking about the “Death of DEI” or calling for even more diversity efforts, there’s no escaping the conversation. And it’s a worthy one to have for HR pros.
But as the conversation continues, many are redefining what DEI means and, consequently, what words we use when we talk about it. Whether it’s rearranging the letters, adding or taking them away, there are a lot of different terms floating around.
So what do they all mean? And which one should you be using? Here’s your guide to the most common DEI terms.
The standard term – DEI – has three essential values: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It’s used to “describe three values that many organizations today strive to embody to help meet the needs of people from all walks of life,” according to McKinsey & Company.
Let’s break down what each value means:
- Diversity: In the context of workplace DEI, diversity refers to the groups represented in your workforce, including (but not limited to) gender, age, ethnicity and sexuality.
- Equity: Equity ensures that all people are treated fairly, “so that the norms, practices, and policies in place ensure identity is not predictive of opportunities or workplace outcomes,” per McKinsey. It’s also important to note that equity and equality are similar, but not interchangeable. While equality is about treating everyone the same, equity factors in someone’s unique circumstances to make the end result equal.
- Inclusion: Inclusion at work is just what it sounds like – Ensuring all employees feel like they’re embraced and make meaningful contributions regardless of differences.
Now that the core components of DEI are established, we can explore some of the most common deviations from that term. Here are some of the most popular alternatives, what they mean and why you might want to use them.
What it means: DEIB stands for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.
Belonging is defined as “the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group,” according to Boston University. Belonging ensures that employees can bring their authentic selves to work.
Why use it: Although it may seem the same as inclusion, belonging can be an important factor to add to DEI to make sure that employees truly feel like they belong in their environment.
Organizations that want to take authenticity a step further – to make sure that employees aren’t just free from discrimination, but actually feel like they can show up as themselves and be embraced at work, may use the term DEIB or include belonging as a value.
What it means: D&I is exactly like DEI – just without the “E” for equity. It’s an older term that was used before the adoption of DEI and focuses on initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion.
Why use it: Although not used as often, some companies use D&I as an encompassing term for diversity initiatives. Other times, organizations may see equity as a “trendy” term with less value than diversity and inclusion, and therefore leave it out of their initiatives altogether.
What it means: EDI stands for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. On the flip side of D&I, some see equity as the most important component of diversity initiatives, prompting some to use an acronym that puts equity first.
Why use it: Organizations that put emphasis on achieving equity in the workplace – or believe that diversity and inclusion cannot be truly embraced without first addressing inequity – use the term EDI to signal their commitment to equity as an overall goal.
What it means: IED – Inclusion, Equity and Diversity – puts inclusion at the forefront. IED is one of the more popular alternatives to DEI. In fact, in September 2023, SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor announced that the organization was moving away from DEI in favor of IED.
“While diversity may bring people in the door, it is inclusion that truly welcomes them,” Taylor said. “By pledging to Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity, we can forge a workplace where all employees feel valued, engaged, and challenged, and where their contributions are rewarded.”
Why use it: Some organizations prefer IED for the same reason some use EDI – to signal their organization’s commitment to inclusion as a top priority. It’s a popular option as thought leaders move away from just prioritizing diversity and utilize inclusion practices to create a healthy workplace.
What it means: IDEA stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access. The term builds on DEI but adds the extra element of access, including a focus on accessibility. IDEA focuses on individuals’ unique experiences to create an inclusive, equitable workplace.
Why use it: Organizations that are focused on creating an accessible workplace or whose mission works towards a more accessible world may use IDEA to signal their commitment to access and accessibility for all.