Diversity vs Inclusion: Same, same but different?

Difference between diversity and inclusion

What’s the difference between diversity and inclusion? If you have diversity within an organisation, does that mean you are inclusive? If you strive for inclusiveness, will diversity follow? As many of our clients discover, it can be a challenge for any business or organisation to treat everyone equally with a culture that reflects true inclusive equality.


Diversity is a noun, it is a mix of many people, diverse types of people. Diversity is the who.

Inclusion on the other hand is a verb, it is the act or state of including a mix of people.  Inclusion is the how, the strategies and behaviours that create, welcome and embrace diversity.

Now the difference between diversity and inclusion might seem obvious, but the two terms are often used interchangeably or combined into one strategy for business. It is important to differentiate and address the lack or misuse of both within businesses. To have one without the other simply doesn’t work and leads to wasted resources and little progress.

“Diversity is being asked to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

– Verna Myers

With an inclusive culture comes diversity, innovation, collaboration, engagement and productivity. Diversity and inclusion are powerful elements of management, business and workplace success. Many people believe that reaching number quotas or projecting a level of diversity is the simple and effective solution to creating a diverse workplace. Part of the issue is that diversity and inclusion are combined under the same umbrella, but diversity simply refers to the representation of many diverse types of people. Without inclusion, the employees differences are not fully utilised even if you increased the number of minorities within your organisation. Hence a business will find it difficult to attract, develop and retain diverse talent – employees may be placed in the wrong position, have their ideas and skills ignored and business growth can be stalled.

“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.”

– Jesse Jackson

Studies have shown that without inclusion, diversity can often cause issues within a company and potential backlash. Great inclusive leaders understand and embrace a diverse range of voices and identities, making sure everyone feels equal and accepted.

Diversity without inclusion in organisations leads to missed and wasted opportunities. For example, employees being overlooked for promotions or for the use of their talents that they no longer feel the need to share ideas or strive to challenge themselves and others. In this instance, retention declines with employees feeling underutilised or engaged.

“If you build a wall to separate people, there will be those who find a way around the wall, or over it, or under it, or through it. We humans are not meant to be contained, and neither are our thoughts.”
Teresa R. Funke

There are many methods of creating an inclusive workplace which encourages diversity, as well as innovation, collaboration, productivity and engagement. Increasing trust among your workforce and encouraging individualism and uniqueness leads to employees sharing knowledge and ideas, increasing innovation and collaboration. If employees feel comfortable in the workplace, productivity will increase along with staff engagement in the future success of the business.

“The world is getting too small for both an Us and a Them. Us and Them have become co-dependent, intertwined, fixed to one another. We have no separate fates, but are bound together in one. And our fear of one another is the only thing capable of our undoing.”
Sam Killermann

At emberin, our best-selling inclusive leadership training program, Courage: Inclusive Leadership in Action, helps businesses and leaders move from awareness of inclusion and diversity to measurable results. The Courage: Inclusive Leadership in Action course is online and incorporates the science of micro-learning and takes leaders on an interactive journey to change behaviour and improve the inclusion and diversity in any business. For more information or to see how we can help your company build an inclusive and diverse culture with a free consultation, contact our emberin team.

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