Green Park - Interim and Executive Resourcing

Jargon Buster

Diversity has its own language. We've gathered together some simple descriptions that will hopefully be of use to you in the navigation of the topic.


'Access' can refer to the methods by which people with a range of needs, such as disabled people, people with caring responsibilities, people on low incomes (or other socially excluded groups) find out about and use services, advice, information and opportunities.


A term used to indicate people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic origin


The Disability Discrimination Act defines disability as 'a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [a person's] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities'.

The term disability should be taken to include people with physical disabilities, people with learning difficulties, people with mental health problems, those with sensory disabilities (such as blindness or partial sight), and people with hidden disabilities (such as epilepsy or chest or heart conditions).

Many organisations, particularly those representing disabled people, prefer a more social (and less medical) approach to understanding disability. In this way, disability can be understood as any restriction on activities or opportunities resulting from social and physical barriers erected by people who have failed to take into account the needs of individuals with physical, sensory or mental impairments.

Direct discrimination under the law means treating a person less favourably on grounds of their colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age, gender or marital status or for reasons relating to a person's disability.

Indirect discrimination occurs when a rule, condition or requirement which applies equally to everyone has a disproportionately adverse effect on people from a particular racial group, or of a particular religion or belief, or sexual orientation, or age, or on one gender, or a married person of the same gender, and there is no objective justification for the rule. There is no comparable concept of 'indirect discrimination' in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, but there is a duty to make reasonable adjustments to reduce or remove disadvantage.

Harassment is a form of discrimination.

The term 'diversity' is capable of many interpretations. In the context of equalities work it is often taken to mean the differences in the values, attitudes, cultural perspective, beliefs, ethnic background, sexual orientation, ability or disability, skills, knowledge, age and life experiences of each individual in any group of people. It is not the same as 'equal opportunities'.

Valuing diversity refers to demonstrably valuing diverse employees and clients or customers by having policies and procedures that take their diverse needs and preferences into account.


'Equalities' is a shorthand term to refer to the range of work aimed at ensuring the full and fair participation of marginalised or under-represented groups arising from discrimination, disadvantage and other barriers to participation. This has a particular reference to race, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or belief, and age as areas of non-discrimination that come within the scope of the UK's statutory equalities framework.

Equal opportunities
The development of practices that promote the possibility of fair and equal chances for all to develop their full potential, in all aspects of life, and the removal of barriers to discrimination and disadvantage experienced by certain groups. 

Ensuring that all policy decisions have taken full account of the needs of different equality groups and considered the possible impact of policies on the different groups.


An individual's identification with a group sharing some or all of the following - nationality, lifestyles, religion, customs and language.


A concept that refers to the social differences between women and men that have been learned, are changeable over time, and may have wide variations both within and between cultures.


Genuine Occupational Qualifications
The Genuine Occupational Qualifications (GOQs) are exceptions to the legal rules against making hiring decisions based on race or gender. They are not automatic - the employer must be able to show that specified criteria apply to the job in question. A person's gender is a GOQ for a job on the grounds of physiology where authentic male or female characteristics are required but not physical strength or stamina. GOQs can be applied to jobs where privacy or decency is required. Being of a particular racial group is a GOQ for a job where authenticity is required, eg acting in a film, or where personal services can most effectively be provided by members of the same racial group, eg in care or welfare work.


Harassment is a form of discrimination. The European Commission's Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment defines sexual harassment as 'unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of women and men at work'. It can include conduct ranging from unnecessary touching to physical assault, suggestive remarks or behaviour, the use of innuendo, abusive or offensive remarks or insults. There is at present no equivalent definition of racial harassment. However the Commission for Racial Equality advises that racial harassment includes racist 'jokes', banter, insults, taunts, gibes, literature, and graffiti; shunning people because of their race, colour, nationality or ethnic background; excluding them from conversations or other group activities; making racist insinuations; being condescending or deprecating about the way they dress or speak; picking on them unnecessarily and so on.

Unlawful harassment need not be deliberate, conscious or intentional. While the intention of the perpetrator may provide an explanation for the harassment, it can never make it acceptable. It is the perception and interpretation of the person who feels harassed that is central to the consideration of any complaint of harassment.


Homophobia is any hostile or offensive or discriminatory action against a person because they are gay/lesbian, bisexual or transgender, or because they are perceived to be. These actions may be verbal or physical and can include insulting or degrading comments; taunts or 'jokes'; and excluding or refusing to cooperate with others because of their sexuality. 


Most impairments or disabilities are not visible. Hidden disabilities include mental and cognitive disabilities, some hearing and visual impairments, epilepsy and diabetes. 


Institutional discrimination
Institutional discrimination is the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people in different equality groups. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviours which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and stereotyping, which disadvantage equality groups.
Mainstreaming is the phrase used to describe the systematic integration of equalities into all policy development, implementation, evaluation and review with a view to promoting diversity and equal opportunities. Each part of the organisation accepts its own responsibility for promoting equality of opportunity and challenging discrimination.


Minority ethnic group

This term is used to refer to people who belong to an ethnic group numerically smaller than the (white) majority ethnic group in the UK.


In this context 'monitoring' is a mechanism to measure the effectiveness of an equal opportunities policy and strategy. Monitoring in itself does not achieve equal opportunities. It is a means to an end. Monitoring is the process of collecting, storing, and analysing equalities data (gender, ethnicity and disability, for example). Unless the monitoring information is regularly reviewed and used to drive forward action or address inequality, it serves no purpose.

A pro-active method of making connections and getting information to people.

Positive action
Reverse or affirmative action is illegal in the UK. Positive action however describes measures targeted at a particular group that are intended to redress past discrimination or to offset the disadvantages arising from existing attitudes, behaviours and structures.

Positive discrimination
discrimination is not to be confused with positive action. Positive discrimination, affirmative action or reverse discrimination, generally means choosing someone solely on the grounds of his or her gender or racial group, and not on his or her abilities. Positive discrimination is illegal under UK anti-discrimination law.

NB: Under the Disability Discrimination Act, positive discrimination in favour of disabled people is not unlawful. In fact, employers and service providers are under a positive legal duty to make all reasonable adjustments in favour of disabled people.


A quota is a mandatory, fixed numerical goal that must be satisfied. Some countries operate quotas as a means of addressing under-representation. Specifically reserving a proportion of jobs for certain groups of people is illegal in the UK because achieving them is likely to involve unlawful (positive) discrimination.

Reasonable adjustments
'Reasonable adjustments' refers to the measures that an employer or a service provider should implement to enable disabled people to access a service or take up an opportunity for employment. What is 'reasonable' depends on the nature of the adjustment required and such things as the resources of the organisation concerned.  

The Race Relations Act 1976 protects people with reference to their colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins. Under this Act, 'racial group' means a group of persons defined by reference to colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins.


Sexuality includes a person's emotional, physical and/or sexual attraction and the expression of that attraction. The term sexuality can be used in reference to anybody. Legislation came into force in December 2003 that, for the first time, prohibits discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in employment and the provision of goods and services.


Social exclusion
Social exclusion is a shorthand term to describe what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown. Those who experience social exclusion are, for whatever reason, prevented from participating in or benefiting from those things most people can take for granted. Social exclusion is often seen as an urban issue, affecting inner city neighbourhoods and urban council estates. The reality is that people can be socially excluded wherever they live and for a significant minority of rural people, social exclusion may be a fact of life.

Another way of looking at exclusion is by its defining characteristics - the habit of non-participation, the habit of isolation and a perceived lack of opportunity and choice. In Scotland, the term used is 'social justice'. Recently, the Government has also focused on 'social cohesion' or 'community cohesion', the idea of creating a society that is not fractured by racism, poverty, violence, and so on. 


Social inclusion
This can describe the position from which people can access and benefit from the full range of opportunities available to members of society. Social inclusion is about removing the barriers and factors which lead to exclusion, isolation, lack of opportunity and choice.


Targets are not quotas. Targets are a numerical benchmark or goal against which to measure progress and the size of the change needed. The achievement of targets is not an end in itself. Whether externally imposed or set from within the organisation, targets are a mechanism for concentrating an organisation on milestones towards the achievement of fair representation. Targets represent an aspiration, based on the expected or desired outcome if systems are equitable. Targets can be expressed as a minimum percentage, for example, of the proportion of all new recruits to the work force of, for example, minority ethnic groups or disabled people. Targets can also be used to measure parity of outcomes - such as relative success rates.


Victimisation occurs if a person is treated less favourably than others because they have complained of unlawful discrimination or have supported someone else who has.