Diversity, inclusion, equality and equity

a whistle-stop tour of terms

A decade or so ago, ‘Equality and Diversity’ were the buzzwords of the day. They were popular for good reason as the Equality Act 2010 had just come into being, making it illegal under one act for people with protected characteristics to be discriminated against.

Nowadays you’re more likely to hear the terms, ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ or ‘D&I’ initiatives at your place of work. Or perhaps an amalgamation of all three: ‘Equality, Diversity & Inclusion’, which is somewhat ‘creatively'(!) referred to as ‘EDI’. 

There’s a reason for this of course. In the last ten years, there’s been a lot more study into this area and we’ve learnt that inclusion is an integral piece of the puzzle. It was a false equation of sorts before – one that didn’t add up because we were missing that all important value; the value of inclusion.

Both diversity and inclusion are integral parts of how we make our workplaces attractive places to work, where employees are engaged and productive and our teams representative of society. The science and business case for them is incredibly strong (see our next blog), but before we can look at this in detail, we first have to understand the terms.

So if you don’t know ‘equality’ from ‘equity’, have never heard of 2D diversity, or you’re simply having a tantrum because there’s ‘too many terms'(!), never fear because I am here! I love this subject, so let me help break it down for you . . .


A diverse workforce has people (both in its general workforce and senior leadership teams) from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and education. It includes differences in terms of gender, age, race, ethnicity, ability, religion, sexual orientation etc amongst staff.

two-dimensional (2D) diversity

There are two types of diversity:

1. Inherent – eg gender, race, age, nationality, religious background, socioeconomic background, disability, sexual orientation etc.

2. Acquired (gained through experience) – eg language skills, cultural fluency, cross-functional knowledge, global mindset etc.

In 2013 the Center for Talent Innovation (now Coqual) defined 2D diversity as leaders who exhibit at least three inherent and three acquired diversity traits. 


An inclusive workplace is one where employees feel valued, welcome, accepted, respected, comfortable and confident to be themselves. An inclusive organisation values the voices of all their employees and supports them to thrive. It recognises staff differences and values these, from skill-set to personality, background, identity and beyond.  

I particularly like McKinsey and Company‘s definition of inclusivity: ‘The degree to which an individual feels that their authentic selves are welcomed at work, enabling them to contribute in a meaningful and deliberate manner.’ Or as Culture Amp beautifully proffers: ‘Inclusion relates to the quality of the human experience.’

the D&I partnership

It’s important to note that although the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ are often used together, they are separate entities and inclusion isn’t a natural by-product of diversity. You can have a diverse workforce, which isn’t inclusive for example. As McKinsey & Co (2019) describes, ‘hiring diverse talent isn’t enough—it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive.’

equality versus equity

Equality is being equal in rights, opportunities etc. Equity is about being fair and impartial.

With the passing of the 2010 Equality Act, companies were legally (and quite rightly) required  and committed to treating people equally. They wanted to treat people the same, so as to be sure they didn’t discriminate.

Here’s the thing though . . . just because we want equality doesn’t mean we have it. Bias is a sneaky bit of evolution which can get in the way of our goal for equality. It results in inequities, which disproportionally affect minority groups. Treating people the same (positive motivations aside), when different people need different things simply isn’t helpful.

When minority groups face additional barriers to majority or more privileged groups, these need to be acknowledged and we need to treat people equitably, rather than just equally. As Culture Amp explains, ‘treating everyone equally maintains inequity; start with equity-inspired design.’ This helps, ‘to elevate the people on the margins to an equal playing field,’ resulting in a diverse and included workforce, which is good for employees and businesses alike. 

“If equality is where we want to be, then diversity, inclusion and equity-inspired designs are how we travel the path.” – Daniel McClelland, Artistic Director, Enact Solutions.

For more information about diversity and inclusion training, check out the product page on Enact Solutions’ website.

Jemma Houghton

Jemma Houghton is one of our Associates at Enact Solutions. She’s passionate about research, writing and raising awareness.

Reducing harassment, bullying and incivility in the NHS

It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog post. This article from Sunday’s Guardian has prompted me to put that right.

The NHS holds a special place for many of us. My family and I have had many occasions to be grateful for the care and support we’ve received at all sorts of times of the day and night. I don’t ever take for granted what we have here in the UK.

I’m also under no illusions, just because a service is filled with ‘caring’ professionals doesn’t necessarily lead to workplaces filled with peace, love and understanding. As the Guardian’s article makes all too clear.

The thing is, and the reason I felt moved to write today, in my experience many NHS Trusts are aware they face problems and recognise they have work to do to create productive, healthy, and mutually supportive workplaces. In many instances, they are taking practical steps to close the reality gap between the core values they espouse and the day-to-day experiences of some employees on the ground.

For example, we recently worked with a proactive NHS Trust that wanted us to use our drama-based, experiential approach to work with groups of employees to:

  • Establish a shared understanding of the kind of workplace they (and pretty much everyone in fact) want to work in;
  • Expose the extent of inappropriate and negative behaviours, including acknowledging their own individual shortcomings;
  • Recognise the impact such behaviours have on individuals, working relationships, and ultimately patient care;
  • Achieve clarity on what constitutes bullying behaviour;
  • Signpost where they can go for help and support;
  • Identify what each person can do to establish a more supportive and inclusive environment.

Over the course of 16 3-hour sessions of dramatised content, interactive electronic voting, and honest conversations we worked with over 350 operational employees from one hospital. The sessions were widely well received and valued.

Headline results from the sessions and a follow-up survey 6-8 weeks later included:

  • 98% of delegates on the day said the session helped them understand more what constitutes inappropriate attitudes and behaviours in the workplace;
  • 99% committed to helping create a more supportive and inclusive working environment;
  • 98% found the session worthwhile;
  • 35% of delegates went on in the weeks after the training to have a ‘difficult’ or ‘honest’ conversation in response to a situation or behaviour they thought was undesirable;
  • 83% had done all or some of what they planned during the training; and
  • 98% still felt the training had been worthwhile.

This is just one example of the proactive steps taking place in the NHS and the work we have been doing to help. On its own it won’t fix all the harassment, bullying and incivility that exists but, allied with other initiatives and changes, I believe it can help make a positive difference. As this delegate put it:

“I feel that changes are beginning.  There is still a long way to go.  I think that this course or its content should be part of the annual refresher so that these behaviours come to be automatic.”

As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. If you want to create a more supportive workplace and would like to know more about our work with NHS clients, feel free to contact me.