Reducing Discrimination ≠ Increasing Inclusion

Every successful behavior change campaign targets a specific behavior (or a small set of interrelated behaviors) that the campaign wants people to adopt. One of the first decisions that one must make when planning a pro-diversity initiative is whether to target a behavior that reduces discrimination or a behavior that increases inclusion. It turns out that this decision has important consequences.

Discrimination refers to behaviors where members of a particular group (usually a marginalized group) are treated more negatively than members of other groups. Inclusion refers to behaviors that signal to members of a particular group that they are welcome, respected, liked, valued, and included.

Examples of target behaviors related to discrimination:

  • Anonymize CVs and cover letters before evaluating job candidates.
  • Establish a list of qualifications for a position to be filled and rate candidates on these qualifications.
  • As a teacher, make sure you apply punishments and disciplinary actions equally to students from all backgrounds.
  • Grade exams blindly
  • As a jury member, make sure jury deliberations focus on the crime, not the defendant’s race
  • As a police officer, implement standardized procedures so that all suspects are treated equally
  • Make sure you schedule your next event in a room that is accessible for people with disabilities

Examples of target behaviors related to inclusion:

  • Learn the terms that are perceived as respectful and welcoming by others and then use these terms.
  • Actively recruit candidates belonging to marginalized groups (e.g., job fairs at Historically Black Colleges).
  • As teachers, use books and articles from prominent scholars from diverse backgrounds in your classes.
  • As a team leader, make sure that individuals from marginalized groups get a chance to talk during team meetings.
  • Make sure your colleagues belonging to a marginalized group are invited to social events.
  • Be welcoming; smile; sit close; start a conversation; ask people about their life, especially when the person belongs to a marginalized group.
  • Attend a diversity outreach event that your school or company organizes.


Return to “How to Promote Inclusion in 750 Words” here