Diversity: Definition

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Anyone who believes that a vibrant civil society depends on individuals’ involvement must take into account that this may only be legitimized and actualized if at least two conditions are fulfilled. Every individual should have the same rights to articulate themselves and be involved. Second, there should be equality in chances for articulation and involvement. In our daily life and work, we all face the scarcity of these conditions. Developing diversity consciousness and managing diversity in groups equips our participants to shape a better quality of participation. This includes work against structural discrimination and under-representation of marginalized groups, fostering those who have not yet developed the capacities to become involved. And last but not least to encourage those people who have already developed these capacities to become advocates.

This term describes the fact that people have different needs, attitudes, beliefs, and viewpoints. Diversity can be seen as a positive approach towards plurality and equality according to a huge variety of characteristics, i.e. ethnicity, age, gender, religion, physical abilities, socio-economic background, etc. The opposite concept to diversity may be characterized as homogenity or conformity. Diversity categories can be:

Social diversity

demographic characteristics such as age, status and ethnicity

Personality diversity

personality styles according to the way of thinking, acting and deciding, the attitude towards people and groups, or sensual perception

Informational diversity

background such as knowledge, education, experience, tenure

Value diversity

value and belief related attitudes


Attention to Backgrounds, Discrimination and Privileges

Diversity-conscious education pays attention to the backgrounds and affiliations of the people involved. The goals of this approach are not only to empower minorities or marginalized groups, but also to raise awareness among more privileged groups. Therefore, an important goal is to foster activities that reflect on power relations, representation practices, and normative patterns.

Diversity consciusness needs to be developed on different levels of learning environments. M. Loden and J. Rosener distinguish between primary dimensions which are shaping "an individual’s values, self image and identity, opportunities and perceptions of others", and secondary diversity dimensions which construct the social identity. [1]. Gardenswartz and Rowe added an organizational layer.

Internal Dimensions

External Dimensions

Organizational Dimensions

Age, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, ethicity

Educational background, work experience, appearance, parental status, marital status, geographic location, income, personal habits, recreational habits, religion

functional level within an organization, content field, school/university, seniority, management status



Associated term

In contrast to diversity, heterophobia is used to describe the rejection of the “other.” Heterophobia devalues behavior and lifestyles that differ from the “dominant norm” and often leads to hostility. [3]

Inspiring Handbooks and Sources

From the community library


  1. M. Loden
  2. After Gardenswartz/Rowe: Four layers of diversity
  3. M. Gawinek-Dagargulia in: H. Fahrun, N. Zimmermann, E. Skowron: Diversity Dynamics: Activating the Potential of Diversity in Trainings; Berlin 2014; MitOst; ISBN 978-3-944012-02-5


Handbook: Diversity-dynamics.jpg

H. Fahrun, E. Skowron, N. Zimmermann

Diversity Dynamics: Activating the Potential of Diversity in Trainings.