Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary

We've put together this shortened list of common DEI-related terms to give you more context on what we do, which is just a small sampling of the in-depth glossary of terms we provide our clients. Please keep in mind that we're constantly updating these terms as we learn more, dive deeper into our work, and keep up with language changes. If you spot anything that doesn't quite add up, please feel free to reach out to us. We'd love to hear from you!

Bias: To have a subjective opinion, preference or prejudice towards an individual, group, or community of people that is usually formed without any logical reasoning or justification. This influences the ability for someone to make a judgment or decision or take action objectively. 

BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Note: at SGO we have chosen to follow the practice of capitalizing Black, Brown, Indigenous, and White (among others) when we write about or refer to race and ethnicity. Capitalizing these identities is a way for us to signify that these labels are much more than mere descriptors, and carry with them historical and cultural significance. We specifically choose to include White in this practice because we believe that choosing not to capitalize White, while choosing to capitalize other racial or ethnic labels, would be the equivalent of us affirming Whiteness as the default, standard, or norm.

Brave space:
A brave space is an environment wherein we are encouraged to engage with and challenge our thoughts and reflections, even when it is uncomfortable for us to do so. 

The presence of difference. Diversity encompasses and represents our various identities as individuals and as a collective. Identities include but are not limited to race, gender, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, socioeconomic status, national origin, first language, etc.

Dominant group: The group that has the greatest power (and privilege) in society, but not necessarily greater numbers. Dominant groups make the rules that other group members are judged by, they define reality, they are viewed as capable, they have a sense of belonging, they are approached and trusted, and many times are unaware that they are in the dominant group.

A social identity based on cultural belonging, which can include nationality, heritage, language, geography, religion, or tribal affiliation.


Equality: The state of being equal, especially when it comes to rights, status, and opportunities. Equality aims to promote fairness and justice by providing equal opportunities and resources to everyone. 


Equity: Promoting and advancing justice and fairness with the understanding that there are unfair and unjust policies and procedures in our institutions and our larger society. This understanding influences our ability to create fair and unbiased policies, procedures and protocols, and also provide resources to give people what they need in order to prosper, succeed and reach their full potential.


Inclusion: The process by which people are invited in and feel comfortable to fully participate and contribute their suggestions, ideas and feelings during decision making processes, development changes and/or other opportunities. The result of this is a sense of belonging, especially when contributions are implemented and individuals are recognized for their contributions. 


Intersectionality: The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise. The term was first coined by scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw through her collaborative development and creation of Critical Race Theory. 


LGBTQIA+: This initialism stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual; the plus symbol stands for all the other sexualities and gender identities that aren’t included in this umbrella term.


Liberation: A process and ultimate state in which all people are free from oppression and have access to what is needed to not only live, but to thrive and succeed in honor of their various social identities. 


Marginalized group: A group that experiences disadvantages and may be denied involvement in economic, political, cultural, and social activities when compared to dominant group members. Membership is usually based on differences around group memberships including ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity. Marginalized people and communities are often expected to fit into the rules that the dominant group makes, assimilate into dominant group-defined reality, are viewed as deficient, feel like outsiders, are suspected, and are aware of their group membership. May also be referred to as the ‘target’, ‘minority’ or ‘subordinated’ group. 


Oppression: A system of relationships among social groups in which one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another social group for its own benefit, resulting in vast and deep injustices. Oppression operates through individuals’ conscious and unconscious attitudes and behaviors, media and cultural stereotypes, institutional practices, hierarchical power structures, and competition for resources. The result is the exploitation of one social group by another for its own benefit, real or perceived. 


People of Color: A general term used to describe individuals from Asian, African, Latino/Latine, and Native American backgrounds. 


Power: The ability to control circumstances, access to resources, and/or access to privileges. 


Positionality: The way our social, cultural and political climate influence the way we view and experience the world (and vice versa). Our race, sex, gender, class, and other aspects of our identites help us understand our postion in the world at any given time and place.


Privilege: Unearned access to resources as a result of one’s social identity group membership. An advantage, immunity, benefit, or access granted to an individual or group. Members of the dominant group receive these privileges (societal power) unintentionally, unconsciously, and automatically.

Safe space: The term ‘safe space’ was originally used to describe places where people with marginalized identities could gather without being attacked simply because of their identities. Over the years, it has evolved to describe an environment wherein people are encouraged to have difficult discussions and ask difficult questions without feeling afraid. To honor the origins of this term, we own our individual intentions and impacts while discussing topics that may hold multiple truths. This is done by respecting each other’s humanity and not causing intentional harm to one another. 


Social identity: A reflection of how we see ourselves and how others view us based on social group membership(s). 


Unconscious bias: Attitudes or learned stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. We are unaware of these biases, and they operate automatically, outside of our awareness and control.