Diversity ≠ Inclusivity

By Remington Ross

As a society, we love to throw around the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ interchangeably. Although these words share similar meanings, they are in fact different. An educational conversation with Stephanie Croisiere (she/her), Anti-Racism Diversity and Inclusion Lead, from the Ministry of Long-Term Care, helped me realize how we need to change our day-to-day vocabulary.

The official definition of diversity is “the state of being diverse, having variety”, in other words, having a variety of different things. In this case, people. Conversely, the official definition of inclusivity is “the practise or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized”. This means said variety is a part of the group or workplace, not just for show. While workplaces may claim to be both diverse and inclusive, that may not be the case. For example, having a workplace that’s diverse means there are many people of different ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and other minority groups, one can expect that in Toronto many workplaces are diverse. A workplace that’s inclusive, however, means all those groups are actively a part of the decision-making process and work. This is the one most workplaces struggle with.

It is important to know the difference between diversity and inclusivity. An example Ms. Croisiere gave whereby diversity is important is during interviews. If the panel of judges are of the same gender, ethnicity, social status, etc. they will have blind spots and hire those who are similar to them, this is known as unconscious bias (favouring those who are similar to us). Let’s say in someone’s culture it is rude to look someone in the eye, so they avoid eye contact throughout the interview. This small action, while respectful in the person’s culture, can have a negative effect on panel members. Not understanding someone’s culture can gravely impact the outcome of an interview for most so, being interviewed by panels of people with a different set of experiences and world views gives candidates a better experience. A racially diverse and culturally conscious panel could get another’s opinion on the matter who might know, in their culture, that avoiding direct eye contact is in fact a sign of respect.

Ms. Croisiere also noted that diversity is not enough when diverse groups are visible for their race but are invisible for their ideas and input. During meetings, using your group’s ideas is crucial to collaborating on projects; but of course, many just brush off their colleagues or undermine their ideas apart from the majority groups in the workplace. This is known as a form of micro-aggression.

After the incredible conversation I had with Ms. Croisiere on Take Your Kids to Work Day, I decided to learn more about her research and impact on society. Not only is her research on challenging the narrative on Black mental health award-winning, she also received the first-ever Ryerson Viola Desmond award in 2019.

It was an honour to talk to Ms. Croisiere and learn how she’s making a difference in the Ontario Public Service as well as changing the way we, as a society, view these issues. She is an amazing person to talk to and learn from. I hope she gets more recognition for what she has done for anti-black racism and discrimination across the country, including educating people on the differences between diversity and inclusivity in our communities.