Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Vocabulary

AFP created this diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) vocabulary index because of the role words play in the structure and perception of the world around us. This resource is intended for those who are engaging in DEI conversations with the goal of minimizing misunderstandings, providing education, and normalizing these concepts within the broader scope of society.

This index includes common terminology within the DEI space, but it is not exhaustive. The nature of vocabulary is that it evolves, so use this index as a beginning point of reference in your DEI education journey.


An ally is any person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts that benefit people as a whole.12


The conscious or unconscious act of ‘switching’ between two languages, dialects, or intonations depending on the specific situation of who one is speaking to, what is being discussed, and the relationship and power and/or community dynamics between those involved.7


The wide variety of shared and different personal and group characteristics among human beings.3

Emotional Tax

The combination of being on guard to protect against bias, feeling different at work because of gender, race, and/or ethnicity, and the associated effects on health, well-being, and ability to thrive at work.2


Equality refers to the equal treatment between parties, despite dissimilarity.2


Often confused with equality, equity refers to the proportional distribution of desirable outcomes across groups. When individuals or groups are dissimilarly situated, equal treatment may be insufficient for, or even detrimental to, equitable outcomes.1

Implicit Bias

The attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. The biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individuals’ awareness.1


Inclusion promotes broad engagement, shared participation and advances authentic sense of belonging through safe, positive, and nurturing environments. Inclusion moves past tolerance to accepting and celebrating the multiple aspects of diversity inherent in each individual.1


Subtle, often unconscious everyday behaviors that often unintentionally denigrate someone from a historically marginalized or non-dominant group. They are small, but if experienced chronically, a person can feel, “death by a thousand tiny cuts.4


Privilege constitutes advantages we receive, consciously or not consciously, by virtue of one or more of our identities, called these “dominant identities”.

These advantages are upheld by systems of power that advantage certain groups over others, and include ideologies such as racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, elitism, ableism, nativism, colonialism, ageism, and sizeism. (collectively “the isms”). Privilege is the freedom from stress, anxiety, fear of harm related to your identity.4


Stereotypes refer to the widely held, oversimplified ideas we hold about a person based on their identities (real or perceived). Usually, stereotypes are based on assumptions, popular opinion, or misinformation, are generally negative, are sweeping and simple, and are often characterized by words such as “always” and “never.”4