Skip to content

Employee Experience

Can We Stop Using “Diverse” as a Code Word?

Amy Hull Head Shot

Amy E. Hull, M. ED.
National Manager,
Head of DE&I at Paycor

Guest Blogger

A former educational administrator and now a national corporate leader in DE&I, Amy brings authenticity to the forefront of the leadership, action, and the learning in order to turn DE&I strategy into actionable results. Her work is helping the company learn how to internalize the work of DE&I to achieve sustainable systemic change for the inclusion and belonging of all employees.  Amy has Diversity and Inclusion Certification (University of South Florida), a B.S. in biology (Ohio U.), an M.Ed. in education (Xavier U.), and an M.Ed. in administration (University of Cincinnati).

Paycor’s Guest Blog Posts

It’s important to get different viewpoints from as many people as possible. We welcome our guest bloggers to Perspectives+ and look forward to them sharing their insights, expertise, advice and experience around diversity and inclusion.


Guest Blogger: Amy E. Hull

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is becoming one of the most trending areas of focus for businesses and organizations around the world as a result of racially charged events that have occurred across America and beyond. The most recent, high-profile trauma that the world experienced was the murder of George Floyd, a public display of vitriol for humanity and the right to exist.

While this event was extremely significant and traumatic for many, the momentum generated for the importance of DE&I in all areas of life has had substantial effects on the business community. The conversation has shifted from diversity compliance training to “How do we get diversity?” as if it’s a hamburger from McDonald’s and all you need is a recipe.

The word “diversity” is a noun. It’s a state of being. It’s also multidimensional and encompasses all the ways in which people are different from one another. This could include race and ethnicity, but it also includes personal space, educational level, parental status, and way WAY more.

As Diversity, Equity and Inclusion continues to be a growing field for businesses and organizations, we cannot normalize the phrase “make sure they’re diverse.” Not only is that misleading, but it also minimizes the reason for the work. The reason for the work is to improve the feelings of belonging and inclusion for every individual regardless of how they self-identify in any area of diversity. It is heart work for the hard work.

So where do we get caught up?

Diversifying the workforce is a critical piece of advancing business landscapes. It’s exciting to see numbers change inside the company when that’s a goal. However, when we use directives like, “make sure at least one diverse candidate is in the slate” or “we must have a diverse candidate in the interview panel” it’s a generalization.

Is the word “diverse” a code word for person of color or a woman or someone that self-identifies as LGBTQIA+? If we are specific about the work we are doing and what the metrics are, then we need to be specific about what aspect of diversity it is that we require to change.

Where we get caught up is people giving into the fear of calling it out. As if saying the phrase Black or African American or Asian-American is going to get you fired. Are some companies and organizations ahead of the game with their comfort level in discussing metrics around race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation? Absolutely. However, using the word “diverse” as a substitute for other words is like someone asking you what you want for dinner, and you respond “food.”

How do you fix it?

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

If you know that your company has a targeted goal or you are having a discussion around DE&I that pertains to a specific population, mention the population. Like the “say their name” campaign that exists for those that have been victims of police brutality. Naming the population gives it power and gives you the ability to own what it is that you are targeting.

Sometimes, companies are worried about legal ramifications or causing issues with an equal opportunity policy. Usually, you would run into that issue if it were classified in a job description or a “requirement” which is typically not a good idea. However, if you have a company strategy directed at increasing ethnic diversity you CAN say that in your job description. It’s not exclusive, rather you are working to be more inclusive in your hiring practices when you name it. Notice, the example names the specific type of diversity you are interested in increasing. It’s the difference between saying “Hey you!” and “Hi Amy!”

Release fear.

Fear and progress can’t exist in the same space at the same time. If the goal is for your business to make progress, produce gains and hit metrics and goals and you are afraid to talk about it, chances are you won’t hit those goals or make any progress at all.

By releasing fear, you prevent bias and the generalizing of the words. Be courageous enough to use the language and the terms of DE&I work. Let us not forget that when we generalize words and terms, generalizing people is quick to follow. That’s called stereotyping, which no business wants to be a part of in any way. So, let’s be confident and own where we stand in the process.    

Have clear goals.

If your organization is talking about DE&I and beginning to set goals around it, then set clear objectives with metrics for your work. Gather data, do the needs assessments, conduct the surveys and the focus groups, perform gap analyses, and talk to people in the organization. Then, set targets for those DE&I goals. It’s most likely that one of those goals will be around diversification. When you set those goals, be clear in what it is that you want and use that language.

Challenge your own knowledge base.

Learn as much as you can about various underrepresented populations. There are entire courses on these populations in colleges and universities across the world, and now with the changing workforce landscape, the ability to this work from the comfort of your own home has increased dramatically.

When you know better, you do better. It will also increase your level of emotional intelligence by enhancing your levels of empathy. When that happens, you too will want to correct it when you hear someone say, “the next person we hire must be diverse.”

Bottom line:

We are all diverse. Specificity prevents miscommunication. Drop fear. Be clear in your goals and challenge yourself to learn more about the nuances of diversity.

For more free resources and tools that promote DE&I best practices in the workplace, visit Perspectives+. It’s Paycor’s online knowledge library designed to help our partner network drive change, empower colleagues, and foster new leaders.

Amy Hull Head Shot
Amy E. Hull, M. ED. National Manager, Head of DE&I at Paycor

A former educational administrator and now a national corporate leader in DE&I, Amy brings authenticity to the forefront of the leadership, action, and the learning in order to turn DE&I strategy into actionable results. Her work is helping the company learn how to internalize the work of DE&I to achieve sustainable systemic change for the inclusion and belonging of all employees.  Amy has Diversity and Inclusion Certification (University of South Florida), a B.S. in biology (Ohio U.), an M.Ed. in education (Xavier U.), and an M.Ed. in administration (University of Cincinnati).