2022 Equity Challenge Day 1: What is DEI?

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Audre Lorde

Black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother, warrior

Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. (DEI). These three words have been increasingly appearing in workplaces, higher education institutions, corporations, schools, community-based organizations, and even in the media and literature. In many ways, these three words serve as a foundation to bring people of all different social identities and life experiences together to help transform unjust systems, and to make our communities a place where all people can heal and thrive.

We asked our United Way family to help us define Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Below, you’ll see some examples of their answers, as well as formal definitions.

Word cloud image with "How do you define Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?" in the center and the following words surrounding it, in order of size: recognition, representation, acceptance, opportunity, access, justice, advocacy, fairness, together, intentional, variety, respect, intersectional, culture

So, what does Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mean?

Diversity: Every individual is unique, and groups of individuals reflect multiple dimensions of differences, including race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs and cognitive styles.

Equity:Equity is not the same as equality. Equity allows us to understand that each person is unique with their own strengths and supports. What one person may need to fully thrive in society and to achieve full fairness of outcomes may be different from another person. Equity is achieved when systemic, institutional and historical barriers based on race, gender, sexual orientation and other identities are dismantled and no longer determine socioeconomic, education and health outcomes.

Inclusion: A value and practice of ensuring that people feel they belong and that their input is valued by the whole (group, organization, society, system, etc.), particularly regarding decisions that affect their lives. This should include authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policymaking in a way that shares power.

Over the next 21 days, we will join one another on a journey to dig deeper into DEI, anti-racism and social justice. The first few days of the challenge will encourage all of us to build upon our various foundations for justice work. As you engage in today’s content, here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • DEI work is evolving. Although DEI is becoming more commonplace now, even as business units in many companies, it has not always been this way. We gained the opportunity to discuss and work on DEI from the labor of Black and brown people who fought against decades of resistance to raise awareness and demand change of unjust systems.
  • Because DEI work evolves, the foundations can evolve too. DEI work requires each of us to take on a learning and growth orientation while holding individual ownership for our journey and dedication to lifelong action. For some topics of this challenge, you may find you have personal life experiences or proximity to the injustice being described, or you may never have been exposed to it. Similarly, each of us will find that the daily topics challenge our beliefs and biases in different ways. Each day of the challenge is a chance to practice expanding your capacity to take in new viewpoints and information to inform your personal journey.





  • Check out Raven Solomon‘s podcast, The Generational View. This episode: Generational Evolution of DEI Work with Doug Harris , looks at where DEI work has been and where it needs to go. Harris is CEO of The Kaleidoscope Group, with more than 30 years of DEI experience (53 minutes).


  • Why are you participating in the Equity Challenge? Share your reason on social media using the hashtag #EquityChallenge.

Reflect And Share

  1. How would you define Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
  2. When was the first time you heard DEI used? What were your initial thoughts and reactions? How has that changed over time?
  3. From your experiences, what is missing from the DEI acronym?
  4. How do you personally benefit from DEI work?
  5. What do workplaces and community spaces need to do in order to move DEI work forward?


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hastag #EquityChallenge or #TakeTheEC22