Part 2: 70 Inclusive Language Principles That Will Make You A More Successful Recruiter

Nehemiah Green
Diversity Together
Published in
9 min readAug 6, 2018


This is a continuation of part 1 of 70 Inclusive Language Principles That Will Make You A More Successful Recruiter, which you can read here.

If you haven’t read part 1 already, I recommend doing so before reading part 2.

Student recruitment and campus engagement have changed dramatically. To be effective recruiters and diversity practitioners, we need to stay abreast of new words, concepts, and trends that impact our work. This list is comprised of concepts from the education, diversity, and recruitment world — some of which you may be familiar with and other new.

Concepts to know

Ableism: Discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities. It also assumes that people with disabilities are inferior to the non-disabled.

Accessibility: The practice of designing and developing interview processes, creating resources and writing job descriptions that provide a great experience for students from diverse backgrounds, i.e., students who are first-generation or with disabilities.

Ageism: A system of beliefs, attitudes, and actions that stereotype and discriminate against individuals or groups on the basis of their age.

Alaska Native: someone that is of indigenous heritage to Alaska, this includes the Aleut, Athabascan, Alutiiq, Cup’ik, Haida, Inuit, Iñupiat, Tlingit and Yup’ik people. The term “Eskimo” is widely perceived as derogatory.

Ally: Someone who supports a group other than their own (in terms of racial identity, gender, faith identity, sexual orientation, etc.). Allies acknowledge disadvantage and oppression of other groups; take risks and act on the behalf of others, and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.

Affinity groups: A group of people who choose to meet to explore a shared identity such as race, gender, age, religion, and sexual orientation. These groups can be further broken down into smaller groups within the two major affinities (i.e. White men, White women, African American men/women, bi/multi-racial, etc.). At work these are sometimes called Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs.

Amplification: A technique an ally can use to boost the message of a member of a less dominant group by repeating what that person said and giving them credit for it. For example, Natalie says, “when you hear another coworker making a derogatory comment about or a joke at the expense of LGBTQ people, voice your concern about the impact of such comments on your company culture, emphasizing that there’s nothing negative about being LGBTQ.

Cisgender: Individuals whose gender identity and expression line up with their birth-assigned sex.

Code-switching: The practice of mixing various languages and speech patterns in conversation –or more broadly, changing the way you express yourself culturally and linguistically based on different parts of your identity and how they are represented in the group you’re with.

Culture fit: The likelihood that a job candidate will be able to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviors that make up an organization. As companies discover that looking for a “culture fit” does not promote inclusion, the term is being replaced with “culture adds”; values-aligned individuals who want to have an impact and contribute positively to the culture you’re building.

Diverse: Individuals cannot be diverse. Groups of individuals can be diverse, however, when referring to candidates, refrain from saying “diverse talent” or “diverse candidate.” Instead, try underrepresented talent or individuals, or HUGs (historically underrepresented groups). The use of this term also depends on where you stand. For example, underrepresented groups only look “diverse” to the overrepresented. So by using the term “diverse,” you accept the frame of reference of the majority.”

Diversity: Individual differences that include (but not limited to) ability, learning styles, life experiences, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, political, and religion.

Dominant culture: The cultural beliefs, values, and traditions that are centered and dominant in society’s structures and practices. Dominant cultural practices are thought of as “normal” and, therefore, preferred and right. As a result, diverse ways of life are often devalued, marginalized, and associated with low cultural capital. Conversely, in a multicultural society, various cultures are celebrated and respected equally.

Equity: Equity aims at making sure that everyone’s lifestyle is equal even if it may come at the cost of unequal distribution of access and goods. Social justice leaders in education strive to ensure equitable outcomes for their students.

Equality: Everyone is given equal opportunities and accessibility and are then free to do what they please with it. However, this is not to say that everyone is then inherently equal. Some people may choose to seize these open and equal opportunities while others let them pass by.

Photo credit: Craig Froehle

Gender identity: A person’s perception of their gender, which may or may not correspond with their birth sex.

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HBCU: An acronym that stands for “historically black colleges and universities.” These are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established with the intention of primarily serving the black community, though they have always allowed admission to students of all races. Most were created in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

HSI: An acronym that stands for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) are defined in Title V of the Higher Education Act as not-for-profit institutions of higher learning and undergraduate student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic.

HUGs: An acronym that stands for Historically underrepresented groups.

Implicit bias: The attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions unconsciously. These biases are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.

Impostor syndrome: A phenomenon in which high-achieving individuals are unable to internalize their accomplishments and instead continuously fear being exposed as a “fraud.” Some research indicates that members of underrepresented groups are more likely to be affected by it than others.

Inclusion: A dynamic state of operating in which diversity is leveraged to create a fair, healthy, and high-performing organization or community. An inclusive environment ensures equitable access to resources and opportunities for all. It also enables individuals and groups to feel safe, respected, engaged, motivated, and valued, for who they are and for their contributions toward organizational and societal goals.

Inclusive development: The process of ensuring that all marginalized and excluded groups are stakeholders in development processes.

Intersectionality: The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender that can create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. The term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, who used it to describe the experiences of black women — who experience both sexism and racism.

Latinx (pronounced “La-teen-ex”): A gender-neutral term often used instead of the gendered “Latino” or “Latina” when referring to individuals with cultural ties to Latin America and individuals of Latin American descent.

Lower the bar: A phrase based on the erroneous idea that a company has to relax hiring standards to add people from different racial/ethnic/gender backgrounds. In fact, in many cases it’s the opposite: companies have a poorly designed hiring bar that fails to evaluate highly qualified, and often diverse, candidates adequately.

LGBTQIA: Acronym encompassing the diverse groups of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, intersex and asexual populations and allies/alliances/associations.

Mansplain: A portmanteau of the word “man” and “explain” used to describe the act of men explaining to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

Meritocracy: Belief in the flawed idea that hard work and talent alone are all that’s needed to achieve success. Challenges like implicit bias, structural inequality and varying degrees of privilege or disadvantage mean meritocracy isn’t currently a reality.

Microaggression: This term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe the tiny, casual, almost imperceptible insults and degradation often felt by any marginalized group.

Mood Disorder: This is a category of illnesses that describe a serious change in mood. Illness under mood disorders includes: major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder (mania — euphoric, hyperactive, over inflated ego, unrealistic optimism), persistent depressive disorder (long-lasting, low-grade depression), cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar disorder), and SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Native American: Someone of indigenous heritage to North America. The term that one may identify as may differ based on age, region, or a specific nation.

Neurodiversity: A term to describe mental health to a more broad audience, including learning disabilities, as well as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression or anxiety. This also includes the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome.

Nonbinary: Any gender identity that does not align to the historically traditional and binary definitions of male or female.

Pipeline problem: The belief that the tech industry isn’t diverse because of a scarcity of available talent. The reality is that the pipeline is only part of the issue– better recruitment tactics and interview processes, a focus on retention and lots more can help create more diversity.

POC: An acronym standing for “Person of Color.” This term is used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not white or Caucasian.

Pronouns: A consciously chosen set of pronouns that allow a person to represent their gender identity accurately.. Pronouns include both gendered pronouns like “He” and “She” as well as gender-neutral pronouns like “They” and “Ze.”

Sponsorship: An action that allies and those with privilege can take to advance the careers of members of marginalized groups. While mentors offer advice and support as needed, sponsors use their social capital and credibility to advocate for their protégés by promoting, protecting, preparing, and pushing them.

Stereotype Threat: Stereotype threat refers to the risk of confirming negative stereotypes about an individual’s racial, ethnic, gender, or cultural group. The term was first used by Steele and Aronson (1995) who showed in several experiments that Black college first-year students and sophomores performed more poorly on standardized tests than White students when their race was emphasized. When race was not emphasized, however, Black students performed better and equivalently with White students. The results showed that the awareness can harm performance in academic contexts when one’s behavior is viewed through the lens of racial stereotypes.

Tokenism: The practice of including one or a few members of an underrepresented group in a team or company, without their having authority or power equal to that of other group members. This places a burden on an individual to represent all others like them. (Example: When the one person in an underrepresented group is consistently asked to speak about being a member of that group.)

Transgender: Individuals whose gender identity and expression is different than their birth-assigned sex.

Underrepresented group/underindexed group: This term describes any subset of a population that holds a smaller percentage within a significant subgroup than in the general population. For example, women are often an underrepresented group in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Universal access to opportunity: Universal access to opportunity is the ability of all people to have equal opportunity in employment, regardless of their social class, gender, ethnicity background or physical and mental disabilities.

Now what?

While this list of principles and concepts is meant to be a resource you can reference throughout the year. I recognize it is incomplete, so feel free to add your words and concepts to the comment section. Additionally, if there is a phrase you plan to use or stop using, we’d love to hear about it!

Thanks to Courtney Seiter, Director of People at Buffer and Co-Founder at Girls to the Moon, and the Handshake team for building an incredible list of inclusive language principles that make us better people and a better society for all.



Nehemiah Green
Diversity Together

Building a more equitable and inclusive job market. Social Impact at @Handshake. Previously: Biz Dev at @Code2040 & helped craft education policy @EdTrust.