Equity, diversity and belonging glossary

This glossary has been developed in collaboration with staff and the CSP member reference group formed while we were developing our equity, diversity and belonging strategy. To write these definitions, we have looked at information from organisations such as Stonewall, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the UK government, Census, the World Health Organisation, NHS Employers, GenderTrust and the Law Society. Please note, these are not the CSP's own definitions.

The glossary will be an evolving document and updated as needed. To suggest an addition or amendment, email governance@csp.org.uk.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Ableism: discrimination against people with disabilities.

Agender: a person who does not identify themselves as having a particular gender. See also transgender.

Allyship: empowering those in non-marginalised groups (or those in a position of privilege) to work in solidarity with those in marginalised groups to challenge discrimination, respect other people’s experiences, support communities and take part in lifelong learning.

Anti-discriminatory: actions that oppose or are intended to prevent discrimination – for example, in employment and recruitment practices, or the delivery of health and care services.

Anti-oppression: to be actively involved with challenging the systems of power that disempower, marginalise, silence or otherwise subordinate particular groups, with the aim of equalising the power imbalances in society.

Anti-racist: to be actively involved with identifying and opposing racism with the aim of changing the policies, behaviours and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions. Anti-racism is rooted in action and involves taking steps to eliminate racism at individual, institutional and structural levels.

Asexual or ace: an umbrella term used to describe a lack of, varying, or occasional experiences of sexual attraction. This encompasses asexual people as well as those who identify as demi-sexual and gray-sexual. Ace people who experience romantic attraction and occasional sexual attraction might also use terms such as gay, bi, lesbian, straight and queer in conjunction with asexual to describe the direction of their romantic or occasional sexual attraction.

Audism: a form of discrimination aimed at persons who are deaf and the actions that deaf persons do to assist in communication with others.


BAME: stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and is defined as all ethnic groups except White ethnic groups. It does not relate to country origin or affiliation. This term is not accepted by all and can cause offence to some.

Belonging: the term used by the CSP as an alternative to inclusion. We aim to achieve a sense of belonging for members and employees with differing needs, identities, backgrounds and experiences, not just including them. Inclusion is a choice (whether to include someone or not). Belonging is the feeling of being part of something and mattering to others. This is created through intentional acts of inclusion.

Bisexual or bi: an umbrella term used to describe a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards more than one gender. Bi people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including, but not limited to, bisexual, pan, queer, and some other non-monosexual and non-monoromantic identities.

Bullying: there is no legal definition of bullying, but it is usually defined as behaviour intended to harm, intimidate or coerce someone either emotionally or physically, and is often aimed at people perceived as vulnerable or based on their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, disability or appearance.


Cisgender: someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people.

Conscious bias: to intentionally exhibit overt negative behaviour against certain people, expressed through physical and verbal harassment or through more subtle means such as exclusion.

Cultural sensitivity: being aware that cultural differences and similarities between people exist without assigning them a value – positive or negative, better or worse, right or wrong.


Disability: a physical or a mental condition that has a substantial and long-term impact on a person’s ability to participate in day-to-day social, domestic and occupational activities. This includes invisible and transient conditions such as pregnancy or sickle-cell disease. An individual can have a long-term condition that impacts on their ability to participate, which may or may not lead them to identify as having a disability. Discrimination against people with disabilities is known as ‘ableism’.

Discrimination: the unjust or prejudicial treatment of a person or people on the basis of characteristics such as race or gender, usually by a person or people with more power. It can be intentional or not. The Equalities Act 2010 sets out nine protected characteristics and makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of those characteristics in certain contexts – for example, the workplace or the supply of goods and services.

Discrimination (direct): when a person is treated worse than another person or people because of a protected characteristic; because someone thinks they have that protected characteristic (known as discrimination by perception); or because they are connected to someone with that protected characteristic (known as discrimination by association). To be unlawful, the treatment must have happened in one of the situations covered by the Equality Act – for example, the workplace (there is an exemption for age discrimination in some circumstances).

Discrimination (indirect): relates to policies that apply in the same way for everybody but disadvantage a group of people who share a protected characteristic. If it can be shown that there is a good reason for the policy, it is not indirect discrimination. This is known as objective justification.

Discrimination (systemic): involves the procedures, routines and organisational culture of any organisation that, often without intent, contribute to less favourable outcomes for minority groups than for the majority of the population, from the organisation's policies, programmes, employment and services.

Disorders of Sexual Development (DSD)  DSD  is a group of rare conditions involving genes, hormones and reproductive organs, including genitals. It means a person's sex development is different to most other people's. A person with a DSD may have the biological attributes of both sexes and their external genitalia may not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female. People with DSD may identify as male, female or non-binary. ( Source https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/differences-in-sex-development/ )

Diversity: means that people with different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences coexist, and are equally valued, accepted, respected and listened to. It is used to represent the practice or benefit of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different protected characteristics.


Equality: making sure that everyone is treated the same, which does not necessarily result in equal outcomes as different people have different needs. It relates to the legislative framework in the UK, the Equality Act 2010.

Equity: achieving equity means being fair and reasonable in a way that results in fairness of outcome for everyone. To be able to achieve fair and equal outcomes for everyone means recognising, understanding, respecting and meeting the different needs of people who are marginalised, as well as minimising unconscious bias.

Ethnicity: broader than race and has usually been used to refer to long-shared cultural experiences, religious practices, traditions, ancestry, language, dialect or national origins (for example, African-Caribbean, Indian, Irish). Ethnicity can be seen as a more positive identity than one forged from the shared negative experiences of racism. It's more commonly used and asked about within diversity questionnaires in the UK.

Eurocentricity: also known as eurocentrism. A worldview that is centred on Western civilisation or a biased view that favours it over non-western civilisations. It relates to whiteness.


Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights based on the political, economic and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organised activity.


Gay: refers to a man who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men. Also a generic term for lesbian and gay sexuality – some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term.

Gender expression: how a person chooses to outwardly express their gender, within the context of societal expectations of gender.

Gender-fluid: a person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender.

Gender identity: a person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.

Gender-neutral: does not distinguish according to sex and/or gender; a unisex or allgender inclusive space, language, forum etc. For example, a gender-neutral bathroom is a bathroom open to people of any gender identity and expression; gender-neutral job descriptions are used to attract qualified, diverse candidates.

Genderqueer: an umbrella term with a similar meaning to non-binary, used by people who do not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions, but identify with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.

Gender reassignment: refers to when gender identity is different from the gender assigned at birth. It usually means to undergo some sort of medical intervention, but it can also mean changing names, pronouns, dressing differently and living in a self-identified gender. Gender reassignment is a characteristic that is protected by the Equality Act 2010 – the act applies to anyone how has, is in the process of, or intends to change physiological or other attributes of sex. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows people to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate to gain legal recognition of their affirmed gender and to be issued with a new birth certificate. The term ‘gender reassignment’ is contentious and Stonewall has recommend that it be reviewed. Our LGBTQIA+ Network suggests the use of the terminology ‘trans status’ which is more inclusive and will lead us to a place and time where we will be able to use ‘gender’ referring to those who are cisgender and transgender.


Harassment: this means people cannot treat you in a way that violates your dignity, or creates a hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

Health inequalities: the preventable differences in health status between groups, populations or individuals that arise from the unequal distribution of wealth and power through social, environmental and economic conditions within societies, which determine the risk of people getting ill, their ability to prevent sickness, or opportunities to act and access treatment when ill health occurs.

Heteronormative: the idea or attitude based on the understanding that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.

Heterosexism: discrimination or prejudice against non-heterosexual people on the basis that heterosexuality is the proper or natural sexual orientation.

Heterosexual/straight: refers to a man who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women or to a woman who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men.

Homophobia/biphobia: the fear, hatred, discomfort with or mistrust of people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Biphobia is fear, hatred, discomfort or mistrust specifically of people who are bisexual. Homophobia can take many different forms, including negative attitudes and beliefs about, aversion to or prejudice against bisexual, lesbian, gender non-conforming, transgender, Disorders of Sexual Development (DSD) and gay people.


Identity-first language: where a person's condition or disability is put before the person. For example, a disabled person rather than a person with a disability, an autistic person rather than a person with autism etc. Identity-first language is often preferred by neurodivergent people as being neurodivergent is a fundamental part of their identity. However, people's preferences differ, so it's always best to ask an individual how they would prefer to be described. See also person-first language.

Inclusion: the culture and feeling that everyone is free to be themselves, that a mix of people can bring their authentic selves to work and feel comfortable and confident to be themselves. Inclusion will ensure that everyone feels valued and, importantly, adds value.

Intersectionality: The way in which different types of discrimination are linked to and affect each other, and can lead to multiple discrimination.


Learning difficulty: does not affect all areas of life, learning and independence and does not affect overall general intelligence (IQ). Examples of a learning difficulty include ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyspraxia or dyslexia. An individual may have one specific learning difficulty or a combination, and these may be mild to severe.

Learning disability: significant reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills (impaired intelligence), a reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning), which started before adulthood, linked to a reduced IQ. A learning disability may be mild to severe.

Lesbian: a woman who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women. Some non-binary people may also identify with this term.

LGBTQIA+: stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and everything on the gender and sexuality spectrum that letters and words can’t yet describe.

Long-term health condition: health problems that require ongoing care and management over a period of years or decades, including conditions for which there is currently no cure, and which are managed with drugs and other treatment – for example, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis and hypertension.


Marginalised: to treat someone or a group of people as if they are not important; to place then in a position of little or no importance, influence, or power.

Microaggression: a commonplace comment or action, whether intentional or unintentional, that expresses a prejudiced or derogatory attitude towards a culturally marginalised group.

Multiple discrimination/intersectionality: recognises that discrimination can occur on the basis of more than one perceived characteristic. For example, a person who is discriminated against on the grounds of their ethnicity may be also be discriminated against on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, age, and so on. Such discrimination can, and often does, create cumulative disadvantage.

Misogyny: fear, dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

Misandry:  fear, dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men.


Neurodiversity: the diversity of human minds, the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species. It is a biological fact, not a perspective, approach, belief, political position or paradigm. A person whose neurocognitive functioning diverges from dominant societal norms – for example, someone who is dyslexic, epileptic or autistic – is described as neurodivergent.

Non-binary: an umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably within the categories of ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.


Panromantic/pansexual or pan: a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender.

Person of Colour (PoC): someone who does not consider themselves White.

Person-first language: where the person is put first, before their condition or disability. For example, a person with a disability rather than a disabled person, a person with diabetes rather than a diabetic person and so on. It is often preferred by people with chronic illnesses and disabilities like cancer, stroke and brain injuries as their illness/disability does not define who they are. However, people's preferences differ, so it's always best to ask an individual how they would prefer to be described. See also identity-first language.

Positive action: voluntary action employers can take to address any imbalance of opportunity or disadvantage that an individual with a protected characteristic could face – for example, by supporting those from under-represented groups, to help them overcome any disadvantage when applying for development and training. This is different to positive discrimination, which is illegal. An example of positive discrimination would be setting a quota to recruit a specific number of people with a particular protected characteristic.

Privilege: often associated with, but not limited to whiteness, or White privilege. It refers to ‘unearned advantages that are highly valued but restricted to certain groups’. It means, ultimately, that non-White people would be subject to disadvantages because of their skin colour. Privilege is a function of systems of inequality, such as racism, which derive from imbalances in social power and in the case of racism and white privilege is routed in colonialism and White supremacy. Understanding one’s own privilege and educating others about it is one aspect of good allyship.

Pronouns: words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may choose to be referred to in gender-neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir.

Protected characteristics: according to the Equality Act 2010, protected characteristics are aspects of a person’s identity that make them who they are. It’s unlawful to treat an employee differently after they reveal one. The nine protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation


Queer: term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can also be a way of rejecting the perceived norms of the LGBTQIA+ community (racism, sizeism, ableism and so on). Although some LGBTQIA+ people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed in the late 1980s by the queer community who have embraced it.

Questioning: the process of exploring your own sexual orientation and/or gender identity.


Race: often a categorisation based mainly on physical attributes or traits, with people racialised into a colour category (for example, Black or White). It is now widely accepted that race is a social construct, rooted in White supremacy. Race is a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act and for the purposes of the act refers to colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins – a person may be a member of multiple groups. For example, a person’s current nationality may not be the same as their national origin.

Racism: prejudice, discrimination or antagonism by an individual, community or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalised.

Religion or belief: religion refers to any religion, including a lack of religion. Belief refers to any religious or philosophical belief and includes a lack of belief. Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the definition.


Sex: A biological scientific fact determined at the point of conception, based on genetic, hormonal and biological factors that influence how an organism reproduces. In most species it is divided into male and female. It is not a perspective, approach, belief, political position or paradigm. Must not be confused with ‘gender expression'.

Sex assigned at birth:  A description of either ‘male’ or ‘female’, assigned to a person at birth based solely on the basis of the appearance of the external primary sex characteristics  (genitalia).

Sexism: any act, gesture, visual representation, spoken or written words, practice or behaviour based upon the idea that a person or a group of persons is inferior (less intelligent, able, skilful, etc.) because of their sex, which occurs in the public or private sphere, whether online or offline.

Sexual orientation: understood to refer to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender. Sexual orientation relates to the relationships people forge, and people can be associated with terminologies such as heterosexual, gay, asexual, pansexual, bisexual and so on.

Social communication impairment: refers to conditions such as social communication disorder (SCD) that make it hard to talk with other people. It is not a problem with speech or the mechanics of language but impacts the use of language in social interactions resulting in trouble following the 'rules' of spoken communication. People with these impairments may take over conversations and interrupt a lot. Some say things that are off topic, while others hesitate to talk at all.

Structural inequality and power imbalance: organisations, institutions, governments or social networks contain embedded biases which provide advantages for some and marginalise or produce disadvantage for others. This can involve property rights, status or unequal access to healthcare, housing, education and other physical or financial resources or opportunities.


Transgender or trans: an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bigender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.

Transphobia: the fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including denying their gender identity or refusing to accept it. Transphobia may be targeted at people who are, or who are perceived to be, trans-identified.


Unconscious bias (or implicit bias): unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.


Victimisation: the act of singling someone out for cruel or unjust treatment, because you do not like them, their opinions or something that they have done. In the context of anti-discrimination legislation, this means treating someone badly with negative impacts because they have done a ‘protected act’. The reason for the treatment does not need to be linked to a protected characteristic. A protected act is defined by the Equality Act 2010 as:

  • Bringing proceedings under the Equality Act
  • Helping someone else to bring proceedings by giving evidence or information
  • Making an allegation that someone has breached the Equality Act
  • Doing anything else in connection with the Equality Act vulnerable groups – for example, homeless people, Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, sex workers, vulnerable migrants, refugees, prisoners, people who leave prison, the elderly, those with mental and physical illness


Whiteness: an un-interrogated and invisibilised idea that constitutes and demarcates behaviours, feelings, knowledge, social practices, cultural formations, and systems that attributes White people as being superior and inherently holding more power.

Last reviewed: