The Ultimate Guide to Diversity Dimensions

A year ago I started the #MicroaggressionExplainedByDD series along with the podcast to learn more about the microaggressions experienced by diverse people, and try to understand what they sound and feel like. The feedback on this series was amazing – the posts helped thousands of people understand WHAT inclusive language means, what phrases could be triggering, WHY they could be triggering and alternative phrases to use.

So this year I launched another series #DiversityExplainedByDD. This series explains the most common diversity dimensions that exist today, for example diversity of gender, identity and sexual orientation, the differences between race, ethnicity and nationality and much more!!

Lets dig deeper!


The diversity dimension “RACE” usually refers to a group of people with similar physical characteristics, of which skin color is the most prominent.

It does not define where a person comes from or who the person is. It is a social construct without a universal definition and hence it is difficult to categorize the human population into X number of races. This fluid categorization means that the types of race can change depending on time, place and context.

People could identify their race as black, brown, white or they could identify as African, Asian, European, Native American and Oceanian or use their ethic origins to denote their race or simply have a mix of several races.

This makes the diversity dimension highly complex because it simply cannot be structured into a finite number of classifications. The more important thing is to understand which kinds of people are at risk of racial discrimination whether that stems from skin color or any other physical discrimination and accepting that a person could have a mixed racial heritage, mixed ethnic heritage, and/or different nationalities.


The diversity dimension “ETHNICITY” is a broader term than “RACE” used to indicate the origins of the person. That can include race, but also language, culture and religion among other aspects.

The clustering of people into a particular ethnicity is based on cultural distinctiveness of such a group. People can relate to diverse ethnicities based on where they grew up, how they were raised or their affinity to particular cultural characteristics. Including people of diverse ethnicities, accepting and appreciating the differences and choices of cultural identities are all crucial steps towards true inclusion and belonging.


The diversity dimension “Nationality” refers to a person’s citizenship of a particular country. It can either be based on the citizenship received at or by birth in a particular country or one attained later in life by naturalization or fufilling the citizenship requirements of another country.

As quoted by Naomi Osaka, “Many people dont know the difference between nationality and race. There are black people in Brazil and they are Brazilian!!”

Naomi Osaka is a BLACK JAPANESE tennis player, living in the US.

Awareness and acceptance of diversity in nationality, race and ethnicity is key for true inclusion.


The diversity dimension “GENDER” refers to how a person identifies. Often times, the term “gender” is incorrectly interchanged with the term “sex” of a person which is assigned to a person at the time of birth on the basis of external anatomy.

The natal “SEX” assigned at birth is of 3 forms:

  1. Male
  2. Female
  3. Intersex/ Diverse

Whereas, “GENDER” can take up several forms and is an expression of personal identity and a person’s internal perception of their own gender. It has been guided by legal and societal norms and behavioral characteristics historically (how a person dresses and behaves for example) but this is changing with increasing acceptance and awareness of gender identities and the broad spectrum it covers.

  1. Cisgender
    (when someone’s gender matches the natal sex assigned to them)
  2. Transgender
    (when someone’s gender is different from the natal sex assigned to them. It is usually used as an umbrella term for anyone whose gender expression is different from the one assigned at birth)
  3. Non-binary/ gender queer
    (when someone’s gender identity is outside the binary of male and female with “queer” being used as a more generic umbrella term)
  4. Gender fluid
    (when someone’s gender identity changes over time or with time)
  5. Agender/ gender-neutral
    (when someone identifies themselves with not having a gender)

Pronouns to address or refer to someone are not indicative of someone’s gender. Therefore asking someone what pronouns they like to be referred by instead of assuming based on one’s own perception is super important for inclusion of diverse genders and identities.


The diversity dimension “SEXUAL ORIENTATION”refers to an emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people which is independent of both the natal/biological sex as well as gender identity of the person.

Sexual orientation can be towards the same gender, different gender or multiple genders.

Commonly used terms in this context are:

  1. straight
    (someone attracted to the opposite sex/gender)
  2. “gay” (a male attracted to another male)
  1. “lesbian”
    (a female attracted to another female)
  2. “bisexual”
    (a male/female attracted to both male and female)
  3. “queer”
    (an umbrella term for someone who does not identify as “straight”)

The term “Transgender” does not describe a persons sexual orientation but rather their gender identity.


“Age” diversity is the acceptance and inclusion of different ages in the workplace.
GenXers , GenYers and Millennials today need to work together and collaborate in professional environments. Organizations in turn need to implement work policies and processes, e.g. recruiting, that ensure people of different age groups are employable and have access to opportunities for upskilling.


“Religion” is a dimension that makes people diverse through differences in religious beliefs and practices. Religious diversity is important because it makes people aware of these differences so that people of different faiths can be included.

Today, there are twelve classical religions existing; in alphabetical order these are : Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism. This classification develops over time and changes based on the formation of new religions.

Religious diversity can sometimes be intertwined with culture and ethnic diversities; being aware of these differences and respecting religious differences is key to ensure belonging of all people in a globalized world today.


“Physical ability” is a diversity dimension that defines differences in strength, flexibility, coordination, balance and stamina of people.
Being aware of these differences and the way these differences can show up in visible or invisible ways is crucial to change one’s own perceptions of physically challenged people, for example coworkers.
Adapting policies, processes and infrastructure especially at the workplace is crucial for inclusion of differently physically abled people.


“Mental ability” is a diversity dimension defining differences across verbal comprehension and fluency, visualization, speed, memory, and inductive reasoning of people. It is a key component of the functional capability of a worker, especially a mental worker, to perform work tasks. It is also not a constant – mental health can change over time and is influenced by various factors. Being aware and empathetic towards mental health issues and providing a safe space for sharing and raising issues related to well-being is critical for DEI at the workplace.


“Socio-economic status” refers primarily to a person’s education and financial status and determines access to opportunities. A lot of privilege stems from belonging to a higher socio-economic class through greater access to financial, educational, social, and health resources as compared to someone from a lower socio economic status. Being aware of one’s own privilege is the first step towards supporting and becoming an ally for marginalized communities, especially those with limited access to socio-economic opportunities.


“Education” as a diversity dimension represents a broad range of educational backgrounds, knowledge and skillsets of a person. This includes social skills, awareness about relevant socio-economic issues and differences in perspectives and personalities of people. Diversity in education fosters empathy, creativity and innovation. However, education today is still a privilege and this needs to be kept in mind while interacting with people who might not have access to the same educational opportunities as oneself.


“Appearance” as a diversity dimension refers to differences in how people look. It covers both intrinsic and extrinsic elements. Intrinsic appearance factors are those a person is born with, such as color of the skin, color of the hair, etc while extrinsic factors influence how a person looks, such as the clothes or shoes a person prefers to wear, the way a person grooms their hair, etc.
Truly diverse environments accept people to be their authentic selves when it comes to appearance, do not administer policies and rules unless it has a direct impact on business/work, and challenge perceived stereotypes on an ongoing basis.


“Marital status” as a diversity dimension refers to a person being single, married, divorced, separated or widowed (incuding civil status and partnerships). Diversity in this regard can influence life expectations, ideas, and integration in society. Being aware of any perceived stereotypes and biases associated with this dimension is important to create inclusive and equitable environments.


“Parental status” refers to whether a person has children or not. That includes step-parents, adoptive parents, foster parents and
guardians. Discrimination can happen on the basis of this diversity dimension, for example a qualified woman not being considered for a promotion because her employer thinks she will not be able to prioritize work and undertake work responsibilities over child care duties. These kind of biases that favor a particular parental status should be challenged especially at workplaces.


“Language” is a diversity dimension that refers to differences in languages spoken by a person and how they communicate with others. People can speak only their native language, be bilingual or multi-lingual in various degrees. This influences their communication, social skills and access to work opportunities. Language diversity serves as a bridge to other peoples and cultures. True diversity implies that another person might not speak the language that you speak, but deserves equal respect and inclusion.


“Geographic Location” is a diversity dimension representing the location a person resides in or has spent most of their time in which in turn can influence other forms of diversity such as racial and ethnic diversity. It influences the lived experiences of a person, access to opportunities and network, especially in today’s globalized world.

You can follow the full guide on Instagram and lear more about the topic on “The Digitalization & Diversity” podcast.