Next MBA application deadline, May 31. You belong here.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Glossary

The Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion seeks to foster positive, productive collaboration among all members of a diverse Rice Business community. In order to ensure that every member of the community feels welcomed, valued and respected, we have compiled a glossary to identify a common vocabulary and promote dialogue around equity and inclusion. 




Discrimination against persons with mental and/or physical disabilities; social structures that favor people who do not have disabilities.


The quality of being possible to get into, use, make use of.


All accomplices are allies, but not all allies are accomplices. While an ally is willing to stand in support of a marginalized voice, risk is rarely involved. An accomplice uses the power and privilege they have to challenge the status quo, often risking their physical and social wellbeing in the process.

African American/Black

Individuals may identify as African, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino or other. Black and African American are not always interchangeable. Some people prefer the term Black because they do not identify as African and/or American. Use the term preferred by the group or individual.


Discrimination against individuals because of their age, often based on stereotypes.


A person who takes action against oppression out of a belief that eliminating oppression will benefit members of targeted groups and advantage groups. Allies acknowledge disadvantage and oppression of other groups than their own, take supportive action on their behalf, commit to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of these groups, and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.


Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic or racial group. hate or strong dislike of Jews, or actions that express hate or dislike of Jews.


The work of actively opposing discrimination based on race by advocating for changes in political, economic and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach, which is set up to counter an individual’s racist behaviors and impact.



The feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group or place. For people to feel like they belong, the environment needs to be set up to be a diverse and inclusive place. 


A positive or negative inclination towards a person, group or community; can lead to stereotyping.


Intolerant prejudice which glorifies one’s own group and denigrates members of other groups.


An acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. BIPOC is meant to emphasize the particular hardships faced by Black and Indigenous people in the U.S. and Canada and is also meant to acknowledge that not all people of color face the same levels of injustice.


A person who identifies as coming from two races; a person whose biological parents are of two different races.


A person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part. Similar to an onlooker, passerby, nonparticipant, observer or spectator.


Cancel Culture

The practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.


A gender identity where an individual’s self-perception of their gender aligns with their perceived sex.


Refers to people’s socio-economic status, based on factors such as wealth, occupation, education, income, etc.


Biased attitudes and beliefs that result in, and help to justify, unfair treatment of individuals or groups because of their socioeconomic grouping. Classism can also be expressed as public policies and institutional practices that prevent people from breaking out of poverty rather than ensuring equal economic, social and educational opportunity.

Code Switching

Modifying language, behavior, appearance, etc. to adapt to different sociocultural norms. The holistic process of assessing a situation and presenting in the way that's deemed most appropriate for the context. For example, speaking in a language or dialect that is more socially approved. People from underrepresented groups often use this skill as a survival tactic to navigate everyday life. The pressure to conform can be stressful, alienating and damaging. When an environment is inclusive, people should not need to code switch.


A social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors and styles of communication.

Cultural Sensitivity

Being aware that cultural differences and similarities between people exist without assigning them a value. Cultural sensitivity skills can ensure the ability to work effectively alongside people with different cultural attitudes and behaviors.


Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Deaf refers to an individual with very little or no functional hearing and who often uses sign language to communicate. Hard of Hearing refers to an individual who has a mild-to-moderate hearing loss who may communicate through sign language, spoken language or both. Hearing Impaired, used to describe an individual with any degree of hearing loss, is a term offensive to many deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals; they prefer not to be labeled "impaired" as people. Use a lowercase “d” to refer to audiological status and the use a capital “D” when referring to the culture and community of Deaf people.

Digital Accessibility

Inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with or access to websites, digital tools and technologies by people with disabilities.


Physical or mental impairment, the perception of a physical or mental impairment, or a history of having had a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Replaces the term "Handicap" or "The Handicapped," which do not reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people with disabilities.


Unfavorable or unfair treatment towards an individual or group based on their race, ethnicity, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, socioeconomic status, education, sex, marital status, parental status, veteran’s status, political affiliation, language, age, gender, physical or mental abilities, sexual orientation or gender identity.


Psychological, physical and social differences that occur among all individuals, including but not limited to: race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability and learning styles. 

Dominant Group/Majority Group

The group that generally holds the most power in society and in the workplace. For example, in the U.S., the majority group is white, heterosexual, cisgender, male, non-disabled.


Emotional Tax

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


When target group members refuse to accept the dominant ideology and take actions to redistribute social power more equitably.


Evenly-distributed access to resources and opportunity necessary for a safe and healthy life; uniform distribution of access to ensure fairness.


The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.


A social construct which divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base.



Theory and practice that advocates for educational and occupational equity between men and women; undermines traditional cultural practices that support the subjugation of women by men and the devaluation of women’s contributions to society.

First Generation (First Gen) Student or Professional (FGP)

One of the first in their immediate families to enter the professional work environment (i.e. parents’ careers may not require a college education). 


Gender Identity

A personal conception of one’s own gender; often in relation to a gender opposition between masculinity and femininity. Gender expression is how people externally communicate or perform their gender identity to others.

Gender Neutral

Used to denote a unisex or all-gender inclusive space, language, etc. Examples: a gender-neutral bathroom is a bathroom open to people of any gender identity and expression; gender-neutral job descriptions are used to attract qualified, diverse candidates.

Gender Expansive/Gender Non-Conforming

Used to describe those who view their gender identity as one of many possible genders beyond strictly man or woman. These individuals have expanded notions of gender expression and identity beyond what is perceived as the expected gender norms for their society or context. Some gender-expansive individuals identify as a man or a woman, some identify as neither and others identify as a mix of both.



Social structures and practices which serve to elevate and enforce heterosexuality while subordinating or suppressing other forms of sexuality.


A fear of individuals who are not heterosexual. Often results in hostile, offensive or discriminatory action against a person because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer-identified, or because they are perceived to be. These actions may be verbal or physical and can include insulting or degrading comments, taunts or ‘jokes' and excluding or refusing to cooperate with others because of their sexuality.


Implicit Bias

Implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically and without conscious awareness. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Implicit biases may be held by an individual, group or institution and can have negative or positive consequences.


The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported and valued so they may fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.

Inclusive Language

Words of phrases that include all potential audiences from any identity group. Inclusive language does not assume or connote the absence of any group. An example of gender inclusive language is using “police officers” instead of "policemen."

Institutional Racism (Systemic Racism)

Refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for some and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as People of Color. 

Intent vs. Impact

This distinction is an integral part of inclusive environments; intent is what a person meant to do and impact is the effect it had on someone else. Regardless of intent, it is imperative to recognize how behaviors, language, actions, etc. affect or influence other people. An examination of what was said or done and how it was received is the focus, not necessarily what was intended.


The ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.

Invisible Disability

An umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature. Invisible disabilities, or hidden disabilities, are defined as those that are not immediately apparent.



Individual living in the United States originating form, or having a heritage relating to Latin America.


A gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina.


Acronym for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (Questioning Intersex Allies).” The description of the movement expanded from gay and lesbian to LGBTQ+ and some include questioning, intersex, allies, same-gender-loving, asexual, pansexual and polyamorous.



The placement of minority groups and cultures outside mainstream society. All that varies from the norm of the dominant culture is devalued and at times perceived as deviant and regressive.


The everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.


Subtle, often unconscious, messages and behavior that devalue, discourage and impair workplace performance. It can appear as individuals who are overlooked, singled out or ignored and is based on characteristics such as race, gender, ability, etc. Microinequities can be conveyed through facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice/choice of words. The term was coined in 1973 by MIT professor Mary Rowe.



Refers to the variation in the human brain regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood and other mental functions.


An adjective describing a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between or as falling completely outside these categories.



The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression signifies a hierarchical relationship in which dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.


People/Person-First Language

Emphasizes the individuality, equality and dignity of people with disabilities. Rather than defining people primarily by their disability, people-first language conveys respect by emphasizing the fact that people with disabilities are first and foremost just that — people.

People/Person with Disabilities

Refers to individuals with a disability. This term utilizes Person-First Language, which posits that a person isn’t a disability, condition or diagnosis but rather, a person has a disability, condition or diagnosis. Replaces the terms, "handicap," "the handicapped," "the disabled," "wheelchair-bound" or "cripple," which do not reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people with disabilities.

Performative Allyship

Is when someone from a nonmarginalized group professes support and solidarity with a marginalized group in a way that either isn’t helpful or that actively harms that group. 

Person of Color (POC) 

Used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not considered white. The term encompasses all non-white people, emphasizing common experiences of systemic racism. Because the term "people of color" includes vastly different people with only the common distinction of not being white, it draws attention to the fundamental role and shared experience not common to whites (all persons self-identifying by the general categories of African American or Black; Hispanic, Latino or Chicano; Asian or Pacific Islander; American Indian, Native American or Alaskan Native). Do not use the blanket term POC when you’re talking about an issue, or part of an issue, that is specific to a certain group of people (for example incarceration rates, pay, access to capital) that isn’t shared or differs across all POC.

Personal Gender Pronoun(s)

The pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual personally uses and would like others to use when referring to them. Replaces the term "Preferred Gender Pronoun," which incorrectly implies that their use is optional.


A pre-judgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members. Such negative attitudes are typically based on unsupported generalizations (or stereotypes) that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics.


Power and advantages benefiting a group derived from the historical oppression and exploitation of other groups.



Term used to refer to people or culture of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community. A term once perceived as derogatory is now embraced by some members of the LGBTQ+ community.



A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the political needs of a society at a given period of time.


Individual and institutional practices and policies based on the belief that a particular race is superior to others. This often results in depriving certain individuals and groups of civil liberties, rights and other resources, hindering opportunities for social, educational and political advancement.


Sexual Orientation

The direction of one’s sexual attraction toward the same gender, opposite gender or other genders. It is on a continuum and not necessarily a set of absolute categories.

Social Justice

A vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others and the society as a whole.

Social Power

Access to resources that enhance chances of getting what one needs or influencing others in order to lead a safe, productive and fulfilling life.


Someone in a position of power who uses their influence to advocate on another’s behalf. A sponsor could be a supervisor or anyone who's in a position of influence and willing to put their reputation on the line to advocate. Sponsors take a direct role in advancement, position them to earn raises and promotions, and use their connections to help advance and succeed.


A positive or negative set of beliefs held by an individual about the characteristics of a certain group.

Systemic Racism

Systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantage African Americans, Indigenous people, Latinx people and people of color.



Acceptance and open-mindedness to different practices, attitudes and cultures; does not necessarily mean agreement with the differences.


An individual whose gender identity differs from the societal expectations of their physical sex. Transgender or “trans” does not imply any form of sexual orientation. 


A comment or action that may elicit a strong reaction from others.

Trigger Warning

A heads-up that is given about material that may elicit strong, negative or upsetting reactions. It allows people to prepare themselves emotionally or to even remove themselves from the situation.


Unconscious Bias

The subliminal tendency to favor certain people or groups of people based upon learned stereotypes. It can be interchangeable with the term “implicit bias” (Mercer). It refers to social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.

Underrepresented Minorities (Underrepresented Groups)

A group that is less represented in one subset (e.g., employees in a particular sector, such as IT) than in the general population. This can refer to gender, race/ethnicity, physical or mental ability, LGBTQ+ status and many more.



A person who served in the Armed Forces of the United States during a period specified and was honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances. Armed Forces is defined as the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard, including all components thereof, and the National Guard.


White Privilege

Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are White. White people who experience such privilege may or may not be conscious of it.

Workplace Inclusion

An atmosphere where all employees belong, contribute and can thrive. Requires deliberate and intentional action.



Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.

Terms and definitions are sourced from Sermount and DiversityInc.

Diversity Inc