For many of us, when we hear the term “diversity,” we immediately think of race – and even then, it is only in terms of Black and White. And while increasing the representation of Black people is very important, to limit diversity to only that measurement is to miss the larger point about representation.
Why is diversity important?
The goal of diversity isn’t so much to tick off boxes, but more so to accurately and inclusively reflect the world in which we live – where many different social groups and identities can see themselves in the narratives and have their experiences validated.
The world is teeming with so many stories and people – and yet, for too long, only a few kinds of stories were (and to be honest, are) valued and highlighted – even in the influencer space. And that story was usually of an able-bodied, heteronormative White person.
In children’s books, the terms “mirrors” and “windows” are often used to describe the presence or lack of diversity. Mirrors can reflect social group identities such as race, religion, disability, culture, gender, sexual orientation, body shape, etc. We as people want to be seen and known; mirrors affirm our identities when the depictions show us in the fullness, richness, and complexity of our experiences…when we are not reduced to a caricature and stereotype.
Windows, on the other hand, proffer a glimpse into how otherwise unfamiliar identities live. They ideally provide multi-dimensional portrayals of people who are different to us – and how they might experience the same world in which we live. Windows help us connect to people we might never meet or know on that level of intimacy; they help shape our empathy.
What kinds of diversity are there?
While one could argue that humans are infinitely varied, diversity generally refers to social group identities like culture, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, neurodiversity, religion, disability, body size, etc. Below is a list of some more socially defined types of diversity. Please keep in mind that people can (and do) inhabit multiples of these intersecting identities; these different kinds of diversity are not mutually exclusive.
Cultural diversity generally refers to our ethnicity and the set of norms we absorb from the surrounding environment and society in which we were raised. Cultures can vary even within the same country or region.
Race and ethnic diversity
Race is a socially constructed means of grouping humans together based on shared physical and social traits. Modern scholars generally agree that racial identity is based on rules to establish meaning in a social context. Race is created by society – often by socially dominant groups – and race does not have any inherent biological or physical meaning.
Ethnic groups are related to race, but not exactly the same. Ethnicity is a grouping where the people identify with each other on the basis of common ancestry, nation, language, history, society, culture, race, or social treatment.
Sex / gender / Sexual orientation diversity
Sexual and gender diversity refers to all the various sex characteristics, orientations, and gender identities in the human spectrum. These ever-expanding and nuanced classifications cover sexual orientation (asexual, bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual) and gender identity (cisgender, intersex, nonbinary, or transgender).
Age diversity refers to the full age range of humans (eg: infants, children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged adults, adults over 60, etc.).
Neurodiversity is the concept that differences between brains are totally normal, that conditions like ADHD or autism fall under the aegis of normal variations of the human. Its aim is to show that there is a wide range of learning and thinking differences among human brains.
There are many types and categories of disabilities and disability diversity refers to the broad categories of cognitive, learning, mental health, physical, and sensory disabilities. Other integral differences to consider among disabled people include how a person became disabled, how long they have had their disability, and the evolution of their thinking and philosophy about disability.
Religious diversity refers to the many and varied religious theologies, practices, and customs of people.
Body diversity refers literally to the myriad of shapes, sizes, weights, heights, and forms of the bodies in which we humans live and breathe.
Incorporating more diversity
If you’re not used to considering certain kinds of diversity in your work, you may want to consider adding checklists – or even asking fellow people who are doing the work of activism to check your content.
It may feel very foreign at first, but gradually, over time, inclusivity will become more and more natural.
Remember, adding diversity to your content isn’t a one-time shot. If it were, all these different forms of diversity would be super intimidating and overwhelming. Instead, approach diversity as a philosophy and lifestyle, sort of like a thematic style guide to your content.
Consider the overall arc of your content versus any individual piece.
Just like your audience didn’t get to know you from one post or video, rather getting a sense of you from the gestalt of all your content over a period of time, so, too, is incorporating diversity in your work.