What is diversity? It’s easy to say and hear the word diversity without actually ever knowing what it really means. But with only a general understanding of the word, it’s likely that there are some types of diversity being overlooked.
When you’re cultivating a diverse workplace or a diverse team, having adequate representation is important. A diverse workplace may positively affect an organizations:
- Work environment
- Financial returns
- Overall business strategy
- The opinions of people outside of your organization
There are generally four different types of diversity: internal, external, organizational, and worldview—and you should aim to understand and represent them all. Keep reading to learn more about each one and how diverse employees affect the workplace.
Why Is Workplace Diversity Important?
Before answering the question, What are the 4 types of diversity? It’s helpful to have an understanding of exactly why workplace diversity matters.
These are some of the ways diversity influences your workplace, workforce, and bottom line:
- Varied perspectives – Different personal experiences and backgrounds often bring a wider variety of perspectives or diverse perspectives.
- Better problem-solving – Varied points of view may result in a more well-rounded workforce—it helps make people work harder, more creatively, and deliver a higher quality of work, according to Scientific American.
- Larger audience – Your diverse workforce shows your commitment to equal opportunities, giving your company a positive reputation and capturing a larger share of the market.
- More job applicants – Job seekers may be more likely to want to work with your company, which in turn, gives you a larger pool of applicants to choose from.
- Higher profits – According to ongoing studies by McKinsey & Company, companies with high levels of racial and ethnic diversity are 33-35% more likely to outperform their industry averages financially according to ongoing studies by McKinsey & Company.
Having a diverse team from different backgrounds can boost employee engagement and therefore productivity, but beyond the business-related benefits, creating a workplace that is comfortable for diverse groups can be incredibly valuable. Many people may feel they aren’t given the opportunities in life that they deserve because of bias and perceived differences. An Education Leadership and Management expert may be able to establish a workplace that is inviting to those groups and has zero tolerance for targeted behavior and discrimination against them. This is a morally conscious decision that can make the entire company and your community at large a better place. A diverse workforce where gender equality, racial equity, and equal opportunity thrive can benefit the company as much as it does to its employees.
The 4 Types of Diversity
To further define diversity is to understand the factors that can play into diversity—some things are visible on the outside, but others are just a part of the way people were born. These distinctions are the grounds for how the four categories of diversity were created.
A good way to think of the four types of diversity is as dimensions or classifications that each hold their own list of different applicable subsets.
#1 Internal Diversity
Internal diversity characteristics are ones related to situations that a person is born into. They are things that a person didn’t choose for themselves and are impossible for anyone to change.
Here are some examples of internal diversity:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Cultural identity
- Assigned sex
- Gender identity
- Physical ability
- Mental ability
In addition to racial diversity, age diversity, cultural diversity among many others, disability also plays a role in internal diversity. This includes both physical and mental disabilities. Companies make reasonable accommodations and inclusion training programs to welcome employees with disabilities for a much wider and better workforce.
#2 External Diversity
In the context of diversity, the term external is used to describe things that are related to a person but aren’t characteristics that a person was born with. While external diversity can be heavily influenced by other people and their surroundings, even forcibly so, they ultimately are aspects that a person can change and often do over time.
External diversity is not just about personal choices but also includes factors like socioeconomic background and education. These aspects shape a person's worldview that contributes to skill diversity and provides a different perspective in problem-solving.
The different life experiences and personal traits also significantly contribute to external diversity. From religious belief practices, travel experiences to personal challenges, each employee has a unique story that enriches religious diversity and workplace culture.
Some examples of external diversity include:
- Personal interests
- Religious beliefs
- Familial status
- Relationship status
- Socioeconomic status
- Life experiences
#3 Organizational Diversity
Organizational diversity, also called functional diversity, relates to the differences between people that are assigned to them by an organization—essentially, these are the characteristics within a workplace that distinguish one employee from another.
Regardless of your position or the pay you receive, any form of work that you do may help solidify your belonging to an organization. Whether you’re working for a private, nonprofit, public sector, or governmental organization, and even if you do volunteer work for free, you are a part of an organized group. This could be as small as a group of two or anything higher, as long as it’s more than one independent person that constitutes an organization.
However, there are different subsets within organizational diversity, which include:
- Job function
- Place of work
- Management status
- Employment status
- Pay type
- Union affiliation
#4 Worldview Diversity
The fourth type of diversity is commonly known as worldview. Even though there are a multitude of factors that come together to form our worldview, including our internal, external, and organizational diversity characteristics, at the end of the day, everyone has a worldview that they align with.
Worldview diversity is another diversity type that changes with time—we conceptualize the world differently as we have new experiences and learn more about ourselves and each other.
There are still nuances within our worldviews, but some examples include:
- Political beliefs
- Moral compass
- Outlook on life
Ways to Cultivate Diverse and Inclusive Workplace
By understanding and managing diversity, companies can create a more inclusive and dynamic workplace environment.
- Recruitment processes - Diversity management ensures that the recruitment process is inclusive. Conduct diversity training for interviewers to improve their ability to evaluate candidates without biases. They can consider talent from all backgrounds and not needlessly impose barriers to entry, such as requirements for advanced degrees, costly certifications, or specific work experience. Invite a diverse panel of interviewers who can assess candidates from different perspectives and experiences, in order to make a well-informed and inclusive hiring decision.
- Spaces for everybody - Provide spaces that serve individual differences where everybody can share their background, ethnicity, or interests. Create a safe and supportive environment for underrepresented groups to come together and feel less isolated at work. Implementing such a diversity initiative, you can foster a more inclusive workplace that encourages people of different cultures and diverse backgrounds to bring their whole selves to work. Embracing diversity helps shape cultural awareness so all employees can feel a sense of belongingness.
- Inclusive leadership - Set an example for the rest of the company. When underrepresented groups see leaders who look like them and share their experiences, it sends a powerful message that the organization values diversity and is committed to creating a level playing field.
- Visibility - Be transparent about your efforts and actively seek feedback and input from your colleagues. By creating a neutral space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their perspectives, you can foster a culture of open communication and collaboration. Follow up on the feedback you receive by acknowledging your team's concerns and implementing meaningful changes.
- Stand for advocacy - Take a stance against racism, discrimination, sexism, prejudice, and harassment. These are human rights issues that affect all of us, not just a few selected groups. By working to promote gender diversity, equality and fairness, you can build an environment where people feel safe and valued.
Diversifying with Education
With Alliant International University, you can study at an award-winning school with highly accredited programs and a longstanding commitment to diverse communities as well as career development.
Education is key to understanding one another and ourselves—through education, people become more knowledgeable of other diverse groups, start an initiative, and diversify themselves along the way.
Hunt, Vivian, Lareina Yee, Sara Prince, and Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle. “Delivering through Diversity.” McKinsey & Company. McKinsey & Company, March 1, 2021. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/d…;
Phillips, Katherine W. “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter.” Scientific American. Scientific American, October 2014. Accessed November 4, 2021. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smart…