Diversity and Equality

… a core concept in Socioeconomic and Political Context and Atlas105

Concept description

Reference.com notes that:

“Equality refers to fairness, and in particular to universal access (to employment or health care, for instance), whereas diversity is about recognizing and embracing differences within an institution, workforce or society. In this respect, the two concepts are somewhat at odds with each other, with one stressing homogeneity (sameness) and the other highlighting heterogeneity (difference). Even so, equality and diversity are very often used together, sometimes even interchangeably.”

Contrasting perspectives on diversity and equality

There are substantial differences of view on the appropriate way to address societal diversity and equality. The table below indicates some of the differences. The contrasting perspectives are listed columns entitled Left and Right, recognizing that there is a continuum of views along each of the dimensions listed in the rows.

Importance of categorization
Increase the categories of disadvantaged groups and the categories of human endeavour where equality should be pursued Reduce the importance of group categories and reduce the attempts to equalize outcomes within all categories of human endeavour
Basis of group categories
Differences are primarily socially constructed and not based on inherent characteristics that affect preferences and capacities Differences include inherent characteristics that affect preferences and capacities
Source of differences in group outcomes
Differences in group average outcomes are primarily due to systemic discrimination, including institutional bias and individual bias (including unconscious bias) Differences in group average outcomes are primarily due to differences in initial opportunities and to differences in preferences, capacities, and effort
Increase the use of terms such as privilege, oppression, victim, survivor, racist, and sexist Reduce the use of terms such as privilege, oppression, victim, survivor, racist, sexist
Conception of fairness
Fairness means equality of outcome Fairness means equality of treatment
Appropriate policy response
More rigorous affirmative action, including targets and, if necessary, quotas Focus on equalizing initial opportunity and scale back affirmative action
Group atonement and compensation
Past unjust treatment of a group calls for current atonement and compensation to current members of the group Individuals are neither morally nor financially responsible for events that occurred before their time
Responsibility in dealing with others
People should “check their privilege” to avoid unintentional discrimination and harm People should treat others as they would wish to be treated themselves (Golden Rule)
Degree of systemic change required
High – eliminating systemic discrimination requires change at all levels Low
Role of the state in allocating resources
Greater – the market produces unfair outcomes Not greater
Role of the state in changing beliefs and behaviours
Greater – privileged individuals must be induced to change their beliefs and behaviours Not greater
Role of human rights commissions
The powers of human rights commissions should be increased The powers of human rights commissions should be reduced

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Gender Inequality (core topic) in Socioeconomic and Political Context and Atlas105.


Reference.com, What is the difference between diversity and equality?, at https://www.reference.com/world-view/difference-between-diversity-equality-251a899d54de3637#, accessed 29 December 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 13 March 2017.

Image: Cardiff Metropolitan University, Equality and Diversity, at http://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/about/structureandgovernance/Pages/Equality-and-Diversity.aspx, accessed 29 December 2016.