Which Comes First Diversity or Inclusion?

inclusion Nov 05, 2021

The question that I get asked most often is, “Which comes first, diversity or inclusion?” I have visited many schools and businesses that are proud of the diversity they have achieved. Their population is made up of many minority groups. They have opened the doors to access but in reality has becoming more diverse made them more inclusive? 

What comes first – the chicken or the egg?

People have a difficult time trying to figure out what to pursue first; diversity or inclusion. It can be confusing and is similar to the question, “What comes first the chicken or the egg?” We need to take a closer look at how diversity and inclusion intertwine.  I have  known many businesses and schools that have become more diverse. They have met the targeted numbers of minorities and have given people greater access. However, the question still remains, “Can you have diversity without inclusion?” Absolutely. I have been in very diverse groups and not felt included. In contrast, I have also been in homogeneous groups and not felt included either. Does becoming more or less diverse mean you will automatically meet your vision for authentic inclusion?  I have never seen this to be the case. Becoming more diverse will not make you automatically more inclusive.


What is The Difference Between Inclusion and Diversity?

Diversity is critical. How boring would life be if everyone were the same? The greatest inventions of all time came from a diverse group of people with different ideas, strengths and passions. Steve Jobs did not create Apple by himself and Michael Jordan did not take the Chicago Bulls to all NBA championships alone. In both organizations the teams were extremely diverse and made up of people who had completely different personalities and skills. There is no question that diversity was a key to their success.

However, diversity can also work against you. It can cause more fear, segregation, and resentment. Being diverse does not always mean you will achieve greater inclusion. Increasing your numbers to meet quotas may give the appearance of inclusion but it never guarantees that people will feel a true sense of belong.  Inclusion is lot more work.  I often think of diversity as more of an external change that you can quantify.  Inclusion is more about internal change that comes from the heart.

How does Inclusion Intertwine With Diversity?

The best companies and schools I have seen have come to realize that if you become more inclusive you will automatically attract more diversity. Think about it. Are people more attracted to an organization that is diverse but not inclusive OR are they attracted to an inclusive organization where diversity has evolved as a result of their inclusive practices. I have always found that you can have diversity without inclusion but you can’t have inclusion without diversity.

Share below your experiences with diversity and inclusion and what you have seen and experienced. What are businesses and schools doing in your community?


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