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When working with matters related to D&I, language is of utmost importance. The terminology we use defines the cultural status quo -and has the power to push beyond what is currently common practice or even thinkable. Thus, a mindful attitude towards the words we use and the continuous iteration of language is one important aspect of mind-set shift and cultural transformation for more social justice.

Following, you can find an overview of important terminology within the context of D&I that help us to express ourselves in a sensitive and clear manner. The list does not claim to be complete - it is an attempt at offering assistance to everyone who wants to join in on a respectful conversation about social justice in the workplace, disregarding their previous exposure to related topics.


Having the mental and/or physical condition to engage in one or more activities in life (e.g. seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, working or caring for oneself).


The idea that only two genders exist, male and female and that consequently all individuals are either men or women (or boys and girls). The idea of the gender binary is falsified through research - we know today that gender is a spectrum, not a binary. Still, the gender binary is build into many aspects of our lives (e.g. toilets, children toys, legal gender etc.).


A mental or physical condition that affects an individual’s ability to engage in one or more major life activities (e.g. seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, working or caring for oneself).


A term used to describe the characteristic of a group in relation to the variety of individuals' identity markers (e.g. ethnicity, cultural background, gender, age).


Refers to a person’s identification with a group based on multiple characteristics (e.g. shared history, ancestry, geographic and language origin, cultural background cultural practices).

Gender Spectrum

The idea that gender is a spectrum rather than a binary which is common practice in research. As the gender binary is build into many aspects of our lives and thus continuously reproduced (e.g. toilets, children toys, legal gender etc.), it creates hurdles for anyone not conforming to the binary and tricks others into thinking one's (binary) sex determines one's (binary) gender identity.


Our social identity that is ascribed to us with according rules, norms, expected behaviours and personality traits that are often based on a binary understanding of male and female. The way an individual identifies in terms of their gender. Although gender identity is internal and not necessarily visible to others, individuals sometimes assume a certain gender identity based on gender roles and ideas of "typical" behaviour/looks etc.

Gender Equality

The idea that all genders should have access to the same opportunities and be treated equally. In Germany, it is common practice to use "gender equality" as a synonym for the equality between men and women, however gender equality also entails equality of other genders.


A term used to describe the level of involvement and encouraged or accepted engagement of various individuals within a group.

LGBTQI* Umbrella term for individuals whose sexual orientation or sexual identity differs from a heterosexual and binary understanding. Categories of LGBTQI* include, but are not limited to lesbian and gay (attracted to some members of the same gender), bisexual (attracted to some members of more than one gender), trans (gender identity that differs from sex assigned at birth or expected behaviour), queer (anyone whose sexual orientation, gender identity or other identity markers diverge from the norm within a heteronormative majority culture), intersex (non-binary sex characteristics) and *anyone else who does not feel represented by these categories nor the categories of a heteronormative majority culture.


A word or phrase used as a substitution for a noun or noun phrase, which is known as the pronoun's antecedent. If you are uncertain of the pronoun a person goes by, you can use gender neutral pronouns like "they/their".


Refers to the categories into which society places individuals on the basis of physical attributions (e.g. hair and skin colour, facial form, body type). In German, "race" has a connotation with the holocaust - we use other terminologies to speak about individuals' physical characteristics.

Socioeconomic Status

An individual’s economic and social position in relation to their personal or family's background, as measured by factors such as level of education, income and occupation.

Third Option

The third option refers to the a legal third option beyond the binary of male and female in official contexts. It is sometimes mistakenly called the "option for a third gender" which could lead individuals into thinking that individuals can either have a male, female or a third gender identity. This is wrong: gender is a spectrum and goes beyond three boxes, the third option rather provides an option for anyone who cannot or does not want to identify with the gender binary - disregarding their personal gender identity.


Transgender describes the gender identity of people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth and/or whose gender expression do not conform with society’s expectations with regard to gender roles and expected behaviours.

Unconscious Bias

Harmful effects of mental shortcuts in our brain that help us to navigate the world by reducing complexity. By relying on personal experiences, exposures to culture and stereotypes our brain subconsciously tricks us into taking biased decisions/having biased opinions. Visible in (and beyond) recruitment process, decision making, business culture and judgement.


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