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The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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ODI : definitions



"Persity refers to human qualities that are different from our own and those of groups to which we belong; but that are manifested in other individuals and groups. Dimensions of persity include but are not limited to: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities / qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, religious beliefs, work experience, and job classification."

Persity as a concept focuses on a broader set of qualities than race and gender. In the context of the workplace, valuing persity means creating a workplace that respects and includes differences, recognizing the unique contributions that individuals with many types of differences can make, and creating a work environment that maximizes the potential of all employees.

Source: “Why Persity Matters”; University of California-Berkeley

Persity (in the workplace):

Workplace persity refers to the extent to which an organization is culturally perse. Cultural persity includes the range of ways in which people experience a unique group identity, which includes gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnic and age. An organization’s culture tends to determine the extent to which it is culturally perse.

While persity in the workplace brings about many benefits to an organization, it can also lead to many challenges. It is the responsibility of managers within organizations to use persity as an influential resource in order to enhance organizational effectiveness. In the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, C.L. Walck defines managing persity in the workplace as "negotiating interaction across culturally perse groups, and contriving to get along in an environment characterized by cultural persity”.

In a journal entitled The Multicultural Organization by Taylor Cox, Jr., Cox talks about three organization types which focus on the development on cultural persity. The three organization types are: the monolithic organization, the plural organization, and the multicultural organization. In the monolithic organization, the amount of structural integration (the presence of persons from different cultural groups in a single organization) is very minimal: "in the United States, this organization usually represents white male majorities in the overall employee population with few women and minority men in management jobs". The plural organization has a more heterogeneous membership than the monolithic organization and takes steps to be more inclusive of persons from cultural backgrounds that differ from the dominant group. The multicultural organization not only contains many different cultural groups, but it values this persity.

The "business case for persity" theorizes that in a global marketplace, a company that employs a perse workforce (both men and women, people of many generations, people from ethnically and racially perse backgrounds etc.) is better able to understand the demographics of the marketplace it serves and is thus better equipped to thrive in that marketplace than a company that has a more limited range of employee demographics.

An additional corollary suggests that a company that supports the persity of its workforce can also improve employee satisfaction, productivity and retention. This portion of the business case, often referred to as inclusion, relates to how an organization utilizes its various relevant persities. If a workforce is perse, but the employer takes little or no advantage of that breadth of that experience, then it cannot monetize whatever benefits background persity might offer.

In most cases, US employers are prohibited by federal and state laws from giving race or ethnicity any consideration in hiring or assigning employees. However, the US Supreme Court has upheld the use of limited preferences based on race, ethnicity, and sex, when there is a “manifest imbalance” in a “traditionally segregated job category.”


Workplace Persity- New Definition:

Because of the legal attacks on race-based affirmative action programs, employers have had to rethink the strategies used to achieve their persity goals. In response, a new definition of persity has emerged -- one that includes race and other characteristics. In its broadest context, persity candidates are being defined as "individuals who bring unique perspectives or outlooks to the organization."

The new definition of persity includes the traditional categories of race and gender. In addition, it includes people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, and other non-traditional categories. One of the most interesting categories being used by some employers is "persity of thought" – which they say can be obtained by hiring individuals with different degrees, college affiliations, education or social economic backgrounds from their current employees. What this means is that if you grew up in the inner city (or rural area, etc.) or attended a HBCU/HACU, you may be able to bring persity of thought to an organization that traditionally recruited from Ivy League schools.

The new definition of persity allows organizations to develop persity recruiting strategies that are not race-based, (which is required in order to pass current legal tests) but still include seeking racial persity.

Source: “The Changing Definition of Workplace persity”; William Shackelford


The term inclusion began as a policy to ensure that all children regardless of ability are mainstreamed into classrooms and become part of their school community. Inclusion today is more widely thought of as a practice of ensuring that people in organizations feel they belong, are engaged, and connected through their work to the goals and objectives of the organization.

Miller and Katz (2002) present a common definition: “Inclusion is a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so than you can do your best work.” Inclusion is a shift in organization culture. The process of inclusion engages each individual and makes people feeling valued essential to the success of the organization. individuals function at full capacity, feel more valued, and included in the organization’s mission. This culture shift creates higher performing organizations where motivation and morale soar.

Roberson (2006) notes that the term inclusion is often coupled with the term persity and these terms are often used interchangeably, however they are distinctly different.  The Institute for Inclusion, a nonprofit organization, has collectively attempted to define inclusion apart from persity. It has developed a set of core values and general principles and conceives of inclusion as requiring a paradigm shift in human consciousness, awareness, and interaction.

Source: Wikipedia

Inclusion is engaging the uniqueness of the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, capabilities, and ways of living of individuals and groups when joined in a common endeavor. Inclusion is engaging differences to create a culture of belonging in which people are valued and honored for the improvement of our society, world, and enterprises. Inclusive behaviors are those practices and behaviors that leverage and honor the uniqueness of people’s different talents, beliefs, and ways of living. Inclusive behavior transcends all differences among people by acknowledging and honoring the group identities we all possess while at the same time not being restricted by those identities. When one is defined by the concept of a group, people can be limited by their knowledge or beliefs about that particular group. Instead, inclusion embraces similarities and differences at the individual and group levels for the attainment of the common endeavor.

Key Elements of Inclusion:

  • Actively including others in collaboration and co-creation processes to maximize individual and collective contributions.
  • Involving the right people (regardless of rank or tenure) in innovation, decision-making, market development and leadership toward the common goals.
  • Learning to live and work together.
  • Promoting values and practices that demonstrate openness, respect, collaboration and appreciation of the validity of different points of view.
  • Recognizing and supporting the intrinsic value of all human beings by creating and sustaining conditions that foster equity, empowerment, awareness and competence at the personal, group and organizational levels.

Source: Institute for Inclusion


In its broadest sense, equity is fairness. As a legal system, it is a body of law that addresses concerns that fall outside the jurisdiction of Common Law. Equity is also used to describe the money value of property in excess of claims, liens, or mortgages on the property.

Source: The Free Dictionary by Farlex


  • The quality of being the same in quantity or measure or value or status.
  • A state of being essentially equal or equivalent; equally balanced.
  • Rights, treatment, quantity, or value equal to all others in a specific group; such as, they should have full equality under the law.

Source: English-Word Information; word

The terms "equality" "equal," and "equally" signify a qualitative relationship. ‘Equality’ (or ‘equal’) signifies correspondence between groups of different objects, persons, processes or circumstances that have the same qualities in at least one respect, but not all respects (i.e., regarding one specific feature, with differences in other features). ‘Equality’ needs to be distinguished from ‘identity’ — this concept signifying that one and the same object corresponds to itself in all its features: an object that can be referred to through various individual terms, proper names, or descriptions. For the same reason, it needs to be distinguished from ‘similarity’ — the concept of merely approximate correspondence. That is to say that men are equal is not to say that they are identical. Equality implies similarity rather than ‘sameness.’

Source: The Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy


Discrimination refers to the treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit. Discrimination can be the effect of some law or established practice that confers privileges on a certain class or denies privileges to a certain class because of race, age, sex, nationality, religion, or handicap. Federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, prohibits employment discrimination based on any one of those characteristics. Other federal statutes, supplemented by court decisions, prohibit discrimination in voting rights, housing, credit extension, public education, and access to public facilities. State laws also provide further protection against discrimination.

Source: U.S.

Discrimination is the cognitive and sensory capacity or ability to see fine distinctions and perceive differences between objects, subjects, concepts and patterns, or possess exceptional development of the senses. Used in this way to identify exceptional discernment since the 17th century, the term begun to be used as an expression of derogatory racial prejudice from the 1830s Thomas D. Rice's performances as "Jim Crow".

Since the American Civil War the term 'discrimination' generally evolved in American English usage as an understanding of prejudicial treatment of an individual based solely on their race, later generalized as membership in a certain socially undesirable group or social category.  Discrimination has remained in British English as a term denoting elite status in perception and insight, often attributed to success in the investment finance, or anyone with admirable choice in style, often high society leaders.



Prejudice is a baseless and usually negative attitude toward members of a group. Common features of prejudice include negative feelings, stereotyped beliefs, and a tendency to discriminate against members of the group.


Prejudice means "pre-judging" something. In general, it implies coming to a judgment on the subject based on false beliefs or before knowing where the preponderance of the evidence actually lies. Prejudice may involve discriminatory attitudes of individuals toward people or things or impairment to the rights of a party in a legal dispute.

Source: USLegal


  • a distinctive doctrine, cause, or theory
  • an oppressive and especially discriminatory attitude or belief <we all have got to come to grips with our isms — Joycelyn Elders; First Known Use: 1680


Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO):

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is about ensuring that work environments are free from unlawful discrimination and harassment, and provides employees with equal opportunities for jobs, training and development. It was during the 20th century that EEO evolved, and as a result of this evolution, EEO laws and regulation were created.

On September 24, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246. This Order stated that the head of each executive department and agency shall establish and maintain a positive program of equal employment opportunity for all civilian employees and applicants for employment within its jurisdiction.

This Executive order led to the first EEO Executive Order. On August 8, 1969, former President Richard Nixon signed Executive Order 11478, which required that the United Stated government provide equal opportunity in federal employment for all persons, to prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, sex, age, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental handicap. As a result of this, EEO laws were developed.

There are six Federal laws that prohibit unlawful job discrimination, and one regulation that governs the process of Federal sector discrimination complaints.

Source: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau;

Affirmative Action:

Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, sex or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination. The focus of such policies ranges from employment and education to public contracting and health programs. “Affirmative action” is action taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded.

The term "affirmative action" originated in the United States, and first appeared in President John F. Kennedy's Executive Order 10925. The term was used to refer to measures to achieve non-discrimination. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 which required federal contractors to take "affirmative action" to hire without regard to race, religion and national origin. In 1968, gender was added to the anti-discrimination list.

Affirmative action is an attempt to promote equal opportunity. It is often instituted in government and educational settings to ensure that minority groups within a society are included in all programs. The justification for affirmative action is to compensate for past discrimination, persecution or exploitation by the ruling class of a culture, or to address existing discrimination.


 Affirmative action creates an environment where equal employment opportunity can prevail. Affirmative action, especially as it is mandated in employment discrimination litigation, is also compensatory and serves to remedy the effects of discrimination.

Affirmative Action is number oriented; aimed at changing the demographics within the organization. Affirmative Action opens doors in the organization.

 Source: “Affirmative Action vs. persity; The Quest for Opportunity in the 21st Century World; Shirley J. Wilcher; Insight Into persity; Winter 2011.

Persity Management/Managing persity:

In the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, C.L. Walck defines managing persity in the workplace as "Negotiating interaction across culturally perse groups, and contriving to get along in an environment characterized by cultural persity". It is the responsibility of managers within organizations to use persity as an influential resource in order to enhance organizational effectiveness.


Persity management is very much a long-term process. It means taking a look at the company’s current culture and changing those parts of it that limit (or impede) cultural persity. It means recruiting new employees for the skills they can bring to the company rather than their cultural homogeneity. And it means working with people in management to help them to understand that cultural persity is a business issue and that their own careers will benefit from enabling their employees to reach their full potential. Good persity management frees employees of the need to assimilate and “play safe”, and encourages and enables them to develop their strengths and present innovative ideas.

Source: Black Enterprise; July, 1993.

Persity management is a strategy that is intended to foster and maintain a positive workplace environment. Usually initiated by Human Resources professionals and managed by department heads and supervisors, an effective persity management program will promote recognition and respect for the individual differences found among a group of employees. The idea of this management style is to encourage employees to be comfortable with persity in the workplace and develop an appreciation for differences in race, gender, background, sexual orientation or any other factors that may not be shared by everyone working in the same area of the company.


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