DEI Glossary of Key Terms

Based on terms defined in the Washington State DEI glossary resources, this subset of definitions can be used to define terms found in SPSCC's Commitment to Diversity Statement. It can also be used to explore related definitions and concepts found in other equity-focused descriptions.

For additional resources, read the full 2021 Washington State Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion - Glossary of Equity-Related Terms developed through the work of Dr. Karen Johnson and DEI Workgroup members.

Judgment or preference toward or against one group over another.

  • Implicit or Unconscious Bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.
  • Explicit or Conscious Bias are biases we know we have and may use on purpose.

A set of values, beliefs, customs, norms, perceptions, and experiences shared by a group of people. An individual may identify with or belong to many different cultural groups. Culture is passed to others through communication, learning, and imitation.

Approach to respectfully engaging others with cultural identities different from your own and recognizing that no cultural perspective is superior to another. Cultural humility may look different for different people or groups. For example, in a white dominant culture the practice of cultural humility for white people includes acknowledging systems of oppression and involves critical self-reflection, lifelong learning and growth, a commitment to recognizing and sharing power, and a desire to work toward institutional accountability. The practice of cultural humility for people of color includes accepting that the dominant culture does exist, that institutional racism is in place, to recognize one’s own response to the oppression within it, to work toward dismantling it through the balanced process of calling it out and taking care of one’s self.

An actual, perceived, or non-apparent physical, sensory, mental, or cognitive condition that has an adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day life functions. Environmental barriers may hinder persons with disabilities from fully and effectively participating on an equitable basis.

Inequitable treatment of an individual or group based on their actual or perceived membership in a specific group.

Describes the presence of differences within a given setting, collective, or group. An individual is not diverse – a person is unique. Diversity is about a collective or a group and exists in relationship to others.

A team, an organization, a family, a neighborhood, and a community can be diverse. A person can bring diversity of thought, experience, and trait, (seen and unseen) to a team — and the person is still an individual.

The act of developing, strengthening, and supporting procedural and outcome fairness in systems, procedures, and resource distribution mechanisms to create equitable (not equal) opportunity for all people. Equity is distinct from equality which refers to everyone having the same treatment without accounting for differing needs or circumstances. Equity has a focus on eliminating barriers that have prevented the full participation of historically and currently oppressed groups.

A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical base.

External appearance of one's gender, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or intonation, and which may or may not conform to societal expectations of a person’s sex assigned at birth or their gender identity.

  • Gender Non-Conforming - A way to describe a person whose gender expression does not correspond with their sex assigned at birth. It is not used as a personal identifier.

A person’s innermost concept of self as male, female, or a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. A person’s gender identity can be the same or different from their biological sex.

  • Agender - Without gender. When a person feels they have no gender at all and have no connection to any gender.
  • Cisgender - Describes a person whose gender identity and gender expression matches the gender typically associated with their biological sex. Often abbreviated to “Cis”.
  • Gender Non-Binary - A term of self-identification for people who do not identify within the limited and binary terms that have described gender identity: male or man, female or woman.
  • Genderfluid - Individuals whose gender varies over time. A gender fluid person may at any time identify as male, female, agender, any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities.
  • Genderqueer - Describes a person who identifies outside of the binary of male/man and female/woman. It is also used as an umbrella term for many gender non-conforming or nonbinary identities (i.e. agender, bi-gender, genderfluid).
  • Transgender - A person whose gender identity and/or expression are not aligned with the gender they were assigned at birth. Transgender is often used as an umbrella term encompassing a large number of identities related to gender nonconformity.

Intentionally designed, active, and ongoing engagement with people that ensures opportunities and pathways for participation in all aspects of group, organization, or community, including decisionmaking processes. Inclusion is not a natural consequence of diversity. There must be intentional and consistent efforts to create and sustain a participative environment. Inclusion refers to how groups show that people are valued as respected members of the group, team, organization, or community. Inclusion is often created through progressive, consistent, actions to expand, include, and share.

The social process of relegating a particular person, groups or groups of people to an unimportant or powerless position. This use of power prevents a particular person, group, or groups of people from participating fully in decisions affecting their lived experiences, rendering them insignificant or peripheral. Some individuals identify with multiple groups that have been marginalized. People may experience further marginalization because of their intersecting identities.

System of classification based on the nation from which a person originates regardless of the nation they currently live. National origin is not something an individual can change, though origin can change through the generations of family.

Privilege is any unearned benefit, position, power, right, or advantage one receives in society because of their identity. In the United States, privilege is prevalent in the following areas:

  • Ability privilege;
  • Age privilege;
  • Christian privilege;
  • Cis Privilege;
  • Class or economic privilege;
  • Hetero privilege;
  • Male privilege;
  • National origin; and
  • White privilege.

A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics most typically skin color. Racial categories were socially constructed, and artificially created whiteness as one of the elements of the dominant culture. Race was created to concentrate power and advantage people who are defined as white and justify dominance over non-white people. The idea of race has become embedded in our identities, institutions, and culture, and influences life opportunities, outcomes, and experiences. Racial categories change based on the political convenience of the dominant society at a given period of time.

A feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, valued and should be treated in a dignified way.

A person’s physical, romantic, emotional, aesthetic, and/or other form of attraction to others. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. For instance, transgender people can be straight, bisexual, lesbian, gay, asexual, pansexual, queer, etc., like anyone else.

  • Aromantic - A person who experiences little to no emotional or romantic to other people. Sometimes aromantic people abbreviate the term to Ace.
  • Asexual - A person who experiences little to no physical attraction to other people. Sometimes asexual people abbreviate the term to Ace.
  • Bisexual - A person who has an emotional and physical attraction to persons of the same and different genders.
  • Gay - A person who is emotionally and physically attracted to someone of the same gender. It is more commonly associated with males or men.
  • Heterosexual - A person who is emotionally and physically attracted to people of the opposite sex.
  • Lesbian - A female or woman who has an emotional and physical attraction for other females or women.
  • Pansexual - A person who is emotionally and physically attracted to individuals of all gender identities and expressions.
  • Queer - A person who expresses fluid identities and/or orientations in their emotional and physical attraction to others. The term is sometimes used as an umbrella term to refer to all LGBTQ+ people.

A practice within a society based on principles of equality and solidarity that understands and value human rights and recognizes the dignity of every human being. Such a practice would strive to provide basic human needs and comforts to all members of the society regardless of class, race, religion or any other characteristic.

Military Status

A person’s connection to the military in the categories listed below:

  • Disabled Veterans - A veteran who is entitled to compensation under laws administered by the Department of Veteran Affairs or a person who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability. This includes veterans who would be entitled to disability compensation if they were not receiving military retirement pay instead.
    • Reference: Title 38 U.S.C. Section 4211 (3)
  • Military Spouse - Washington state recognizes military spouse as any person currently or previously married to a military service member during the service member’s time of active, reserve, or National Guard duty.
    • Reference: Executive Order 19-01
  • National Guard & Reserve Service - The Armed Forces reserve component includes the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Coast Guard Reserve, Army Guard of the United States and the Air National Guard of the United States. The individuals are currently serving in a reserve component capacity contributing to the national security and military readiness.
    • Reference: Title 38 U.S.C. Section 101 (7)
  • Special Disabled Veterans - A veteran who is entitled to compensation under laws administered by the Department of Veteran Affairs
    • a disability rated at 30 percent or more; or
    • a disability rated at 10 or 20 percent in the case of a veteran who has been determined under 38 U.S.C. 3106 to have a serious employment handicap;
    • or a discharge or release from active duty because of a service-connected disability.
      • Reference: Title 38 U.S.C. Section 4211 (1)
  • Veteran: includes every person who has received a discharge or was released from active military service under conditions other than dishonorable or is in receipt of a United States department of defense discharge document that characterizes their military service as other than dishonorable (RCW 41.04.007 & Title 38 U.S.C.).