Expanding the Definition of Diversity

May 4, 2022
9 min

DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) has become top of mind for nearly every leader over the last two years. But too often, rather than viewing diversity for what it truly means - and who it includes - we tend to unintentionally pigeonhole our view. This can result in a myopic view of diversity and a missed opportunity to engage all underrepresented groups.

The truth is, if we want to increase diversity at our organizations, we need to be intentional about reframing the way we define diversity. 

First, we must recognize that diversity DOES NOT refer to or imply a specific or SINGLE type of person, because no one group can fulfill your diversity goals. In other words, diversity implies variety. And it’s not always something you can see. In other words, it shouldn’t be limited to what you can visually piece out from someone’s LinkedIn. 

In order to develop a deeper understanding of diversity, we must first have a better understanding of the communities that are underrepresented in our workforce.

That’s why we’ve made a list of thirteen specific groups of underrepresented people to consider when discussing diversity. Here’s a little bit more about who should be included when thinking about diversity initiatives across the company, and examples of ways to ensure each group is recognized and well supported. 

13 Groups to Consider When Thinking About DEI

In order to paint an in-depth picture of diversity, we’ll need to expand our view of underrepresented groups. As mentioned above, it’s important not to view diversity just as something you can see visually, and not to tokenize individuals in your approach. Instead, you should broaden your outlook and take into consideration every group that tends to be marginalized or underrepresented for various reasons. From there, you can work to ensure each group is recognized and action is taken to be more inclusive and equitable towards those groups. 

Here are 13 key groups to take into account as you define diversity goals and initiatives at your organization. 

  • Working parents
  • Older and experienced workers
  • Refugees and immigrants
  • LGBTQ+ community
  • People with disabilities
  • Veterans
  • Formerly incarcerated individuals
  • Black community
  • Hispanic and Latinx community
  • Indigenous and Native American community
  • Women
  • Asian American and Pacific Islander community 
  • Neurodiverse community


Think about these groups in the context of your organization. Are there any groups you might have overlooked when thinking through DEI goals and strategies? It’s possible that some of these groups are more familiar to you than others. In fact, the nature of your company may lead you to naturally focus on certain groups more than others. Take this opportunity to continue expanding your view and familiarize yourself with the other groups you may have overlooked. Recognize that each of these groups of people has their own struggles and individual experiences of discrimination. 

The Overlap

No person is an island, and no community of people exists in isolation. It’s important to recognize the intersectionality of individuals at your organization. Intersectionality acknowledges the interconnected nature of identity markers and social categorizations (like race, gender, class, sexual orientation, etc.) for an individual, and recognizes the ways each can inform the other, and layer on top of one another, creating complex situations and unique experiences of discrimination and oppression. 

In other words, it’s likely that members of one of the underrepresented groups listed above will fall into another group as well, and the struggles they face will compound on top of one another. For example, there are Asian veterans with disabilities, older and more experienced workers who are part of the Hispanic community, and Black members of the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, each person will have their own unique experience of discrimination and a unique viewpoint. 

Make sure you not only recognize these groups at your organization but also give them the space and opportunity to help shape the very fibers of who you are. 

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Ways to Support Underrepresented Groups

Because each group of people, and every individual person, is dealing with different pressures and concerns, it’s important to resist the temptation to lump everyone into one group. When looking for ways to support people well, you need to view them individually, not just collectively. Here are a few ways to better support underrepresented groups at your organization: 

  1. Name & define each group 

You can’t support a group if you don’t name it. When each underrepresented group is clearly recognized and acknowledged, you’ll be better able to find specific ways to support those groups. 

  1. Think about the specific biases and challenges different people face 

Each group of underrepresented people has its own unique challenges and struggles. And many of them deal with different types of bias. Set aside some time to list out a few specific biases they face so you can increase your awareness and avoid falling into those. 

  1. Revisit your terminology 

Consider the way you word every job listing, company announcement, and language used in documentation across your organization. Are you unintentionally including any derogatory language or excluding groups with your word choices? Do a thorough check on all of your content before going live with it to make sure every group is considered. (Mathison’s Bias Scanner can be hugely helpful here.)

  1. Set up affinity groups 

Affinity groups are a great way to help different groups of people connect and build community.  Common affinity groups may include a Women’s Affinity Group, LGBTQ+ group, BIPOC group, and many others. You can set up any number of these and invite someone from within the identifying group to lead meetings. 

  1. Implement practical + targeted changes

While the above are important steps to take, it’s also important to think even bigger. Now that you’ve identified underrepresented communities and the specific needs and challenges within them, what are the ways you can better support them? For example, if you’d like to better support working parents within your organization you could follow the footsteps of Accenture and offer a benefit like Milkstork, which ships breastmilk home while parents are traveling for work. 

Avoiding Tokenism & Holding to Authenticity 

Perhaps most importantly, when doing the work of increasing diversity at your organization, you want it to be authentic. What you don’t want to do is force people to speak up on behalf of or for an entire group of people. You also don’t want anyone to feel that they have to join a group or identify a particular way unless it’s something they’re comfortable with. Everyone is on their own journey. Instead, provide open-ended and accessible opportunities for belonging and safe spaces for underrepresented groups to be seen and valued. 

You don’t have to make all of these changes all at once. The important thing is that you begin to do the work at your organization today. Change takes time. Expanding your definition of diversity and the way you go about supporting underrepresented groups is an essential part of that journey. 

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