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Inclusion is…

Joe Gerstandt

I work to bring a greater clarity to diversity and inclusion work. Being sloppy and careless with our language easily and often undermines the outcomes that we work toward. You can come to use whatever definitions you like, I just hope to inform and inspire that process. If we build a solid and broad foundation with our language and logic, it becomes much easier to then build behaviors and target outcomes.

This is the definition of inclusion that I use:

the act of including additional difference in a group or process

So, I am talking about the things that you deliberately do (as an individual, group or organization) to include more difference. Inclusion is not something that you are or are not. It is something that you do…it is behavior…the deliberate behavior of seeking out and including more difference. So, rather than telling me that you are inclusive, tell me what you are doing to include.

Inclusion is activist.

This is not an intellectual or moral endeavor…it is not about whether you get it, buy it, embrace it, cherish it, dance with it, or embrace it. That stuff is all quite highly overrated. It is not about your intentions, your aspirations, or what you do not do. That is all stuff for another conversation…a conversation that will not take place here.

Inclusion is dialogic.

To truly include difference requires a certain amount of sharing of power toward relationships of equals. WhenDiversity & Inclusion power is not shared, one side does all of the accommodating and you have conformity rather than inclusion. Organizations seeking to be more inclusive must be very serious about minimizing power and privilege dynamics that exist in any hierarchy.

Inclusion is generative.

Greater diversity of inputs into a group or process drives greater variance in outcomes. Said another way, groups with greater diversity over-perform or under-perform groups with less diversity…you are literally increasing the potential of a group by including more difference. Whether this inclusion fuels positive outcomes or negative outcomes largely depends on how willing and able the group is to deal with the additional tension.

How does your organization define inclusion?

Be good to each other.

Joe Gerstandt helps organizations deliver on their promises. Joe works with Fortune 500 corporations, small non-profits, and everything in between. He also speaks at numerous conferences and summits each year and blogs at He is a contributor to the Workforce Diversity Network Expert Forum and his insights have been published in Diversity Executive, HR Executive, The Diversity Factor, The American Diversity Report, the Corporate Recruiting Leadership Journal, Associations Now and other print and on-line journals. He also serves on the board of directors for the Global Diversity and Inclusion Foundation.


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