The Robert H. Smith School of Business believes shared understanding of diversity and inclusion is important to comprehending distinct perspectives and experiences in creating tolerance. Our hope is that this glossary of terms increases awareness in the areas of identity, types of bias and other useful concepts and terms. This list is not exhaustive, and in this space – change and development happen quickly.
Our identities are who we are as individuals, including our personal characteristics, history, personality, name, and other characteristics that make us unique and different from other individuals.
Asexual: someone who does not experience sexual attraction
Bicultural: a person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender, or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree
Biracial: a person who identifies as coming from two races; a person whose biological parents are of two different races
Bigender/Dual Gender: a person who possesses and expresses a distinctly masculine persona and a distinctly feminine persona and is comfortable in and enjoys presenting in both gender roles
Bisexual: a person who is attracted to people of their own gender as well as another gender
Cisgender: a description for a person whose gender identity, gender expression and biological sex align (e.g., man, masculine and male)
Ethnicity: the culture of people in a given geographic region, including their language, heritage, religion, and customs
First Nations People: individuals who identify as those who were the first people to live on the Western Hemisphere continent; people also identified as Native Americans
Gender: social, cultural and psychological traits linked to males and females that define them as masculine or feminine
Gender Identity: refers to a person’s internal, deeply felt sense of being a man or woman, or something other or in between, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth; because gender identity is internal and personally defined, it is not visible to others
Heterosexual: a person attracted to members of another sex or gender
Homosexual: a person who is attracted to members of what they identify as their own sex or gender (the terms gay and lesbian are preferred)
Intersex: a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with reproductive organs, sexual anatomy or chromosomes that are not considered “standard” for either male or female
LGBTQIA: an inclusive term for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual
Multiracial: a person who identifies as coming from two or more races; a person whose biological parents are of two or more different races
Multiethnic: a person who identifies as coming from two or more ethnicities; a person whose biological parents are of two or more ethnicities
Pansexual (also referred to as omnisexual or polysexual): referring to the potential for sexual attractions or romantic love toward people of all gender identities and biological sexes; the concept of pansexuality deliberately rejects the gender binary
People of Color: used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not white; the term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism
Queer: an umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society’s view of gender, sexual orientation or sexuality
Questioning: refers to an individual who is uncertain of her/his sexual orientation, gender or identity
Race: refers to the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of physical characteristics that result from genetic ancestry. Sociologists use the concept of race to describe how people think of and treat groups of people, as people very commonly classify each other according to race (e.g., as African-American or as Asian). Most sociologists believe that race is not real in the sense that there are no distinctive genetic or physical characteristics that truly distinguish one group of people from another; instead, different groups share overlapping characteristics.
Religion: a system of beliefs, usually spiritual in nature, and often in terms of a formal, organized denomination
Sex: separate from gender, this term refers to the cluster of biological, chromosomal and anatomical features associated with maleness and femaleness in the human body. Sexual dimorphism is often thought to be a concrete reality, whereas in reality the existence of intersex points to a multiplicity of sexes in the human population. Sex is often used synonymously with gender in this culture. Although the two terms are related, they should be defined separately to differentiate the biological (“sex”) from the sociocultural (“gender”).
Sexual Orientation: refers to the gender(s) that a person is emotionally, physically, romantically, and erotically attracted to. Examples of sexual orientation include homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, and asexual. Trans and gender-variant people may identify with any sexual orientation, and their sexual orientation may or may not change before, during or after gender transition.
Social Identity: involves the ways in which one characterizes oneself, the affinities one has with other people, the ways one has learned to behave in stereotyped social settings, the things one values in oneself and in the world, and the norms that one recognizes or accepts governing everyday behavior
Transgender: has many definitions. It is frequently used as an umbrella term to refer to all people who deviate from their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system. This includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, genderqueers, drag kings, drag queens, two-spirit people, and others. Some transgender people feel they exist not within one of the two standard gender categories but rather somewhere between, beyond or outside of those two genders.
Transsexual: refers to a person who experiences a mismatch of the sex he/she was born as and the sex he/she identifies as. A transsexual sometimes undergoes medical treatment to change his/her physical sex to match his/her sex identity through hormone treatments and/or surgically. Not all transsexuals can have or desire surgery.
Types of Bias
Bias is prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
Ableism: prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental and/or emotional ability; usually that of able‐bodied/minded persons against people with illness, disabilities or less developed skills
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): the 1967 act prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older
Ageism: a system of oppression based on the social construction of age superiority and inferiority, which is expressed in individual, institutional, as well as cultural forms and functions for the benefit of some at the expense of others.
Anti‐Semitism: the fear or hatred of Jews, Judaism, and related symbols
Biphobia: the fear or hatred of persons perceived to be bisexual
Classism: prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in socio‐economic status, income, class; usually by upper classes against lower classes
Discrimination: actions based on conscious or unconscious prejudice that favor one group over others in the provision of goods, services or opportunities
Hate Crime: hate crime legislation often defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person
Heterosexism: viewing the world only in heterosexual terms, thus denigrating other sexual orientations
Homophobia: the fear or hatred of homosexuality (and other nonheterosexual identities) and persons perceived to be gay or lesbian
Implicit Bias: occurs when someone consciously rejects stereotypes and supports anti-discrimination efforts but also holds negative associations in his/her mind unconsciously
In‐group Bias: the tendency for groups to “favor” themselves by rewarding group members economically, socially, psychologically, and emotionally in order to uplift one group over another
The isms usually refer to systems of privilege and oppression based on race (racism), sex (sexism), class (classism), Jewish identity (anti-Semitism), age (ageism), ability (ableism), and sexual identity (heterosexism). While they turn on different axes of social identity, these systems share several conceptual similarities. All are rooted in doctrines of superiority and inferiority; find systemic expression in individual, institutional, as well as cultural forms; and function through the dynamics of power and privilege. These common elements are often expressed in the equation prejudice plus power = oppression (ism). While the ism framework is useful as a way of recognizing the theoretical similarities or intersections across systems of oppression, many social theorists caution that it can be overly reductionist. For example, joining ism with the prefix sex suggests the binary men/women, but not the power differential that structures its parts or the group for whose privilege sexism functions. Further, it is argued that the term may be misconstrued to represent a list of equivalent phenomena, despite key functional differences. Similarly, it leaves room for the inference that systems of oppression are discretely occurring phenomena, when, in fact, they are experienced in interlocking and overlapping ways.
Islamaphobia: the fear or hatred of Muslims, Islam and related symbols
Marginalized: excluded, ignored or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community
Microaggression: everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to historically marginalized groups by well-intentioned members of the majority group who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent
Oppression: results from the use of institutional power and privilege where one person or group benefits at the expense of another; oppression is the use of power and the effects of domination
Prejudice: a preconceived judgment about a person or group of people, usually indicating negative bias
Racism: prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in race/ethnicity, usually by white/European descent groups against people of color
Sexism: prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in sex/gender, usually by men against women
Silencing: the conscious or unconscious processes by which the voice or participation of particular social identities is excluded or inhibited
Stereotype: blanket beliefs, unconscious associations and expectations about members of certain groups that present an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude or uncritical judgment. Stereotypes go beyond necessary and useful categorizations and generalizations in that they are typically negative, are based on little information and are highly generalized.
System of Oppression: conscious and unconscious, nonrandom and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, discrimination, prejudice, and other forms of unequal treatment that impact different groups
Transphobia: the fear or hatred of persons perceived to be transgender and/or transexual
Xenopobia: the fear or hatred of foreigners
Additional glossary terms and definitions
Advocate: someone who speaks up for her/himself and members of his/her identity group; e.g., a woman who lobbies for equal pay for women. Advocates acknowledge responsibility as citizens to shape public policy to address intentional or unintentional harm to minorities and the oppressed, whether caused by action or inaction.
Ally: someone who speaks on behalf of others in need or distress until they are empowered to speak for themselves
Bias Incident: a discriminatory or hurtful act that appears to be motivated or is perceived by the victim to be motivated all or in part by race, ethnicity, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. To be considered an incident, the act is not required to be a crime under any federal, state or local statutes.
Class: definitions of class vary across disciplines. A comprehensive working definition by Yeskel and Leondar-Wright is that class is a relative social ranking based on income, wealth, status, and/or power.
Classism: a system of oppression based on the social construction of superiority and inferiority based on class, which is expressed in individual, institutional, as well as cultural forms and functions for the benefit of the dominant class at the expense of the rest
Climate: refers to the perceptions, attitudes and behaviors reflecting the beliefs of an institution’s culture
Closet: the closet invokes the image of a dimly lit, stale, confining space in which it is difficult to live and grow. “Closeted” or “In the closet” describes an LGBTQIA person who has not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Coming Out: refers to coming out of the closet, as in: the process through which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and transsexual people recognize their sexual preferences and differences and integrate this knowledge into their personal and social lives, as well as the act of disclosure to others. For many in the LGBTQIA this is a continuing process, which occurs every time they meet someone new. Some gay men and lesbians choose to never come out to others.
Culture: while the definition of culture varies within and among academic disciplines, a comprehensive definition is that it denotes the way of life of a people, encompassing their ideas, values, beliefs, norms, language, traditions, and artifacts. Institutional cultures reflect the dominant culture of the society of which they are a part. As an organizational term, culture also refers to the values and beliefs of an institution.
Color Blind: the belief in treating everyone “equally” by treating everyone the same; based on the presumption that differences are, by definition, bad or problematic and therefore best ignored (i.e., “I don’t see race, gender, etc.”)
Dialogue: “communication that creates and recreates multiple understandings” (Wink, 1997); it is bidirectional, not zero‐sum and may or may not end in agreement. Dialogue can be emotional and uncomfortable, but is safe, respectful and has greater understanding as its goal.
Disability: disability is socially constructed, defined by the social and functional criteria of a particular society. People are not born disabled, but rather labeled so. This understanding is reflected in the definition put forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: The term disability means with respect to an individual (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of said individual; (b) a record of such an impairment; (c) being regarded as having such an impairment.
Discrimination: denotes different treatment. As a term of law, however, it refers specifically to the illegal denial of equal rights and protections based on such characteristics as gender, race, ethnicity, and disability.
Disparate Treatment: refers to the intentional different treatment of individuals and groups on bases prohibited by law. A term of law, disparate treatment triggers punitive liability. Not all different treatment is illegal. The law permits different treatment that is designed to advance equal opportunity and meets specific legal standards. Disparate treatment is only one cause of disparities across social groups, which can often result from unintentional or unconscious bias.
Disparities: refers to group differences in educational, health, economic, legal, and other outcomes. Disparities highlight the salience of social group membership in structuring privilege and inequality. Disparities stem from intentional discrimination as well as from unconscious bias.
Diversity: embodies inclusiveness, mutual respect and multiple perspectives and serves as a catalyst for change resulting in equity. It includes all aspects of human differences such as socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, geography, disability, and age, among other characteristics.
Doing Gender: the notion that gender emerges not as an individual attribute but as something that is accomplished in interaction with others
Dominant Culture: the cultural values, beliefs and practices that are assumed to be the norm and are most influential within a given society
Equality: equal treatment that may or may not result in equitable outcomes
Equity: proportional distribution or parity of desirable outcomes across groups. Sometimes confused with equality, equity refers to outcomes, while equality connotes equal treatment. Where individuals or groups are dissimilarly situated, equal treatment may be insufficient for or even detrimental to equitable outcomes. An example is individualized educational accommodations for students with disabilities, which treat some students differently in order to ensure their equitable access to education.
Ethnic Group: a group of people who share a sense of themselves as having a common heritage, ancestry, or shared historical past, which may be tied to identifiable physical, cultural, linguistic, and/or religious characteristics. Ethnicity should not be used interchangeably with race, as illustrated by the fact that Hispanics, designated an ethnic group in the U.S., may nevertheless be of any race.
Ethnocentrism: prejudicial views and different treatment of ethnic groups different from one’s own. Ethnocentrism should not be confused with racism, which is structured on the basis of race and not ethnicity.
Feminism: refers broadly to an ideology and movement advancing full gender equity. According to scholar/activist Angela Davis, there is general agreement that feminism in its many versions acknowledges the social impact of gender and involves opposition to misogyny. While differing in the names they call themselves, many who are committed to the ideal of gender equity believe, like Davis herself, that the most effective versions of feminism acknowledge the various ways gender, class, race, and sexual orientation inform each other.
Feminist: refers broadly to an ideology and movement advancing full gender equity, according to scholar/activist Angela Davis, although there is general agreement that feminism in its many versions acknowledges the social impact of gender and involves opposition to misogyny. Some women of color are reluctant to use "feminist" as a self-referential term, which they see as rooted to the particular historical experience of white middle-class women. Some, like writer Alice Walker, prefer the term "womanist," to mark their simultaneous commitments to eradicate racism and patriarchy. Other terms include Black, African, and Third World feminist. While differing in the names they call themselves, many who are committed to the ideal of gender equity believe, like Davis herself, that the most effective versions of feminism acknowledge the various ways gender, class, race, and sexual orientation inform each other.
Gender Expression: external manifestations of gender, expressed through one's name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, or body characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine and feminine, although what is considered masculine and feminine changes over time and varies by culture.
Gender Identity: one's internal, deeply held sense of one's gender – as male, female, a blend of both, or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth. Unlike gender expression (see above), gender identity is not visible to others.
Gender Non-Conforming: a broad term referring to individuals who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender, or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category
Gender Roles: society places arbitrary rules and roles, how one is supposed to act, dress, feel, think, relate to others, etc., on each of us based on a person’s sex (what genitalia they have)
Harassment: a form of illegal discrimination defined as unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, and/or age. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.
Hegemony: a form of oppression by which those in power naturalize and legitimate their dominance. In contrast to physical force, hegemony flows through the power of taken-for-granted ideas and cultural values, which, when internalized by the masses of people, render them unconscious of the forces that structure their powerlessness.
Heterosexism: the idea that there is a natural form of sexuality, which is inevitable and good. The structures and institutions of our society exist to perpetuate this belief. Some examples are: the invisibility of gay men and lesbians, the lack of role models in schools and the media, and the lack of legal and cultural recognition.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): there are 114 historically black colleges in the United States today, including two-year and four-year as well as public and private institutions. Most are located in the Southeastern United States. Four are located in the Midwestern states (including Wilberforce and Central State Universities in Ohio).
Human Rights: rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law, and freedom of expression; economic, social, and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security, and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated, and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.
Inclusion: a core element for successfully achieving diversity, inclusion is created by nurturing the culture and climate of the institution through professional development, education, policy, and practice. The objective is creating a climate that fosters belonging, respect, and value for all and encourages engagement, and connection throughout the institution and community. In schools, inclusion is often used to refer to the practice of mainstreaming children with disabilities in general education classrooms.
Integration: unlike desegregation, which merely abolishes policies of separation, integration usually refers to active efforts to foster the representation and participation of groups that have historically faced institutional and social exclusion. Their presence in an environment, however, is not necessarily followed by transformation of its culture, norms, or values to reflect their own. Hence, integration should not be confused with empowerment or with equitable outcomes.
Internalized Oppression: the process by which a member of a systematically oppressed group internalizes and acts out the negative characteristics attributed to the group
Intersectionality: refers to the analytical framework through which the relationship among systems of oppression can be understood. African-American women made an early contribution to this analysis in the 19th Century. Recognizing that they experienced racism and sexism differently from both black men and white women even while they shared commonalities with both, they argued that a struggle that did not simultaneously address sexism and racism would only perpetuate both. Since then, movements against racism, sexism, heterosexism, disability, colonialism, and imperialism both within the U.S. and abroad have recognized similar correspondences, enabling more broad-based coalition-building.
Intersex: a term used to describe congenital variations in which development of chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomical sex is atypical (preferred term to “hermaphrodite”)
Isms: refers to systems of privilege and oppression based on race (racism), sex (sexism), class (classism), Jewish identity (anti-Semitism), age (ageism), ability (ableism), and sexual identity (heterosexism). While they turn on different axes of social identity, these systems share several conceptual similarities. All are rooted in doctrines of superiority and inferiority; find systemic expression in individual, institutional, as well as cultural forms; and function through the dynamics of power and privilege. These common elements are often expressed in the equation prejudice plus power = oppression (ism). While the ism framework is useful as a way of recognizing the theoretical similarities or intersections across systems of oppression, many social theorists caution that it can be overly reductionist. For example, joining ism with the prefix sex suggests the binary men/women, but not the power differential that structures its parts or the group for whose privilege sexism functions. Further, it is argued that the term may be misconstrued to represent a list of equivalent phenomena, despite key functional differences. Similarly, it leaves room for the inference that systems of oppression are discretely occurring phenomena, when, in fact, they are experienced in interlocking and overlapping ways.
Minority: in the social sciences the term minority may be applied to those groups that are considered protected classes based on historical exclusion and discrimination. For EEO official reporting purposes and for purposes of the work force analysis required in Revised Executive Order No. 4, the term "minority" refers to Blacks, Hispanics, Alaskan Natives or American Indians, and Asian or Pacific Islanders. In general usage, it is commonly used to refer to people of color as in minority community and minority students. Such labels are increasingly disfavored as they naturalize the minor political, economic, and social status to which people of color have been subjected.
Misogyny: an aggravated form of male sexism. Hatred, dislike of, or prejudice against women.
Multicultural: arising from or informed by cultural heterogeneity. As a description of pedagogical practices, it encompasses classroom strategies, content inclusion, institutional policies, as well as values that challenge some or all aspects of monocultural educational environments. Goals for multicultural education vary along a continuum that includes demographic inclusion, student empowerment, intergroup understanding, educational equity, and social transformation.
Non-Resident Alien: a person who is not a citizen or national of the United States and has not passed the green card test or the substantial presence test
Out: to disclose a person's sexual orientation to another person. To be open regarding one's sexual orientation in a given situation (as in coming out of the closet).
People of Color/Women of Color: the term of color embraces Black, Asian, Latino, and indigenous peoples both within the U.S. and transnationally, whose collective marginalization as colored peoples and colonial subjects informs coalition politics that cut across many issues. In contrast to the label minority, which carries negative connotations, of color, is an example of self-naming that is positively associated with a politics of empowerment.
Permanent Resident Alien: a person who has been admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Lawful permanent residents are legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States. They may be issued immigrant visas by the Department of State overseas or adjusted to permanent resident status by the federal agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Protected Class: a protected class is a group that has been subjected to the documented past and continuing effects of illegal discrimination and whose civil rights, consequently, require legislative and legal reiteration and re-enforcement. In the U.S. protected classes include members of certain racial and ethnic groups, women, persons over 40, qualifying veterans, and persons with disabilities. The protections for which they are explicitly named are frequently misconstrued as special rights that are unavailable to other groups. In fact, they are merely an extension of equal protection to them of rights that are guaranteed to all citizens.
Privilege: a right, license or exemption from duty or liability granted as a special benefit, advantage or favor
Queer: a term adopted by many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people as a strong, all-inclusive, confrontational, and political label for the LGBTQIA community. Historically used as a hostile label, it is now often used within the community to express fluid identities and orientations.
Race: refers to a group of people who share similar and distinct physical characteristics and shared cultural practices. The definition of race has changed amongst scholars over time, moving from a scientific or biological concept to a social concept. Racial categories (including those included in questionnaires like the U.S. census) generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in the country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.
Racialize: to assign human worth and value and structure benefits on the basis of a racial taxonomy
Racist: a member of the group for which racism is structured.  (See Isms, Privilege, Race, Racism)
Reasonable Accommodation: (A) making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; and (B) job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
Retaliation: an employer may not fire, demote, harass, or otherwise "retaliate" against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposing discrimination. The same laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability, as well as wage differences between men and women performing substantially equal work, also prohibit retaliation against individuals who oppose unlawful discrimination or participate in an employment discrimination proceeding.
Safe Space: refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and participating fully without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience
Segregation: refers to the system of racial exclusion created for the purpose of upholding a system of racial privilege for whites. Though de jure segregation is illegal, de facto segregation, particularly in housing and education, contributes to the perpetuation of racial disparities across many spheres.
Sexist: a member of the group for which racism is structured
Sexual Harassment: a form of illegal sex discrimination, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Sexual Orientation: describes an individual's enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Sexual orientation is not a choice, lifestyle, or behavior, it is an inner sense of identity. Sexual orientation is only one small aspect of a person's being.
Social Justice: is both a process and a goal. The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.
Transition: altering one's birth sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition includes some or all of the following personal, medical, and legal steps: telling one's family, friends, and co-workers; using a different name and new pronouns; dressing differently; changing one's name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) one or more types of surgery. The exact steps involved in transition vary from person to person.
Tolerance: acceptance and open‐mindedness to different practices, attitudes and cultures; does not necessarily connote agreement with the differences.