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Respect as a Part of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity

A number of DEI people I’ve talked to have used the word respect. I’m not sure I fully understand the relationship. Can you please explain?

Great question. Fundamentally, providing equity, behaving inclusively, and actively promoting diversity are patterns of behavior that convey respect for employees, customers, partners, and applicants, in a number of ways.

#1: Respect as a Part of Equity

Making sure that people are paid fairly, which conveys respect both for each of them and their colleagues. To be paid fairly implies that there are relatively clear standards or metrics for each employee’s performance and level of responsibility, and those metrics—and evaluation—don’t vary based on an employee’s demographic identity. How will people know the company is respecting employees through a pursuit of equity? Beyond the company saying so (just words), the company can show it through equity audits and providing a summary of audits findings and follow up steps, or some type of compensation transparency. Then employees can know they are compensated fairly, which in turn develops trust with the organization.

#2: Respect as a Part of Inclusion

Although there are many definitions of inclusions, a common denominator is the people feel fundamentally accepted, respected, valued, and supported. Note that the word respect is part of inclusion. Inclusion has several components. One component is the behaviors people use to convey acceptance, respect, support, and that the individual is valued. Another component is how those behaviors are received—the impact of inclusive behaviors: Employees think that their opinions are valued and fairly considered, feel safe offering their perspectives, and that they are treated fairly (there’s that word again—fairly).

The translation between inclusion intent and impact can cause unintended but nonetheless real hurt and harm. That’s why it’s helpful when part of conveying respect is asking about the impact of the actual inclusive behaviors. “Are my attempts to be inclusive succeeding? What could I be doing differently and better?” Asking these questions, taking the feedback, and adjusting behavior accordingly create virtuous feedback loops.

#3: Respect as a Part of Diversity

Respect as a part of diversity means that people are respected for the differences they bring. Differences in various demographic identities and backgrounds that, in turn, may inform their perspectives. Ultimately, there isn’t diversity without meaningful inclusion, because if people from diverse perspectives don’t feel respected and meaningfully included, they are not likely to remain on the job. Hiring, or not hiring, people simply for numbers or the appearance of diversity disrespects everyone and ultimately backfires.

Specific Guidelines

Embedded in the three aspects of respect, discussed above, is the assumption that the organization has provided guidelines on what diversity, what equity, what inclusion looks like within the organization. How people are expected to behave. Ideally, that includes the advice to periodically check and understand the impact of each individual’s efforts. For instance, if I’m working to be more inclusive of different perspectives during team meetings, I might want to ask team members how I’m doing at that and how I can improve.

Disclaimer: This question and response is provided for informational purposes only, and you should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of this content. It is strongly recommended that you immediately seek legal or other professional advice if you believe you are experiencing a problem requiring professional assistance. Robin Rosenberg and Live in Their World, Inc. disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on Dear Robin content.


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