The Basics: What is the difference between Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging?

Let's take a minute demystify a few buzz words. Diversity and Inclusion are sometimes seen as one. Belonging is only recently being discussed. So what does this all mean? 


Consider diversity to mean representation in your organization. The world is becoming more diverse, but business has not. By 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority according to Pew Research Center. When businesses focus on diversity, they're working to ensure employee representation is a reflection of the customers they serve. The focus isn't purely on gender or race, it also includes qualities like age and religion. The goal is to have a variety of viewpoints in order to be more reflective of your target audience.


The benefits of organizational diversity are not fully met if your company does not have an inclusive culture where all employees feel welcomed as part of the group. As Verna Myers famously said, "Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance." Inclusion means that once an individual becomes a part of your organization, they are invited to the right meetings, given access to shape outcomes, are provided opportunities for career advancement and generally have a seat at the table and a feeling that they are part of the team.  Inclusion is harder to quantify and measurements of success often relies on qualitative data. Below is a great example from Harvard Business Review's article, Diversity Doesn’t Stick Without Inclusion:

"We worked with a Chile-based firm that would seem to have no problems with diversity. After all, one of their most valued employees is an indigenous Peruvian, a man who is respected, well-paid, and included in the leadership team’s decision-making discussions. Yet in a one-on-one interview he confided that he saw no future for his ambitions at that firm. “I know they value me,” he said, “but I am an indigenous person, and they are white, legacy, and Spanish. They will never make me a partner, because of my color and background.” 


Former VP of Talent Global Organization at LinkedIn, Pat Wadors, coined the term Belonging to mean in essence feeling as an employee that your authentic self is welcomed and celebrated so you can thrive.  It means feeling that you can take your mask off, be yourself and feel comfortable contributing. When sitting at the table, you see and hear people like you. Whether its your organization's marketing material or internal website, you see yourself reflected. Below is an image Wadors has shared to illustrate key moments at which an organization has opportunities to show the employees that their organization is a place where they belong and are accepted:

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The facts support the importance of capitalizing on these opportunities. Research results have shown there is a direct link between inclusive decision making and better business performance. Fast facts:

  • Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.

  • Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with 1/2 the meetings.

  • Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.

As the tech industry continues to evolve, our understanding of what helps all groups thrive will continue to evolve as well. One thing we know for certain is that success requires a multi-faceted approach. There is no silver bullet and there is no one-size fits all formula. Even after the key components of diversity, inclusion and belonging are put in place, it is imperative to constantly test and understand barriers specific to your organization in order to get a strong understanding of the opportunities for continual improvement.

ModelExpand helps companies connect with and retain candidates from diverse backgrounds. Join ModelExpand’s one-day Diversity Recruiting Bootcamp to build the foundational knowledge needed to diversify your hiring funnel or message us to discuss ways to collaborate together.