Defining "Deep Diversity"

The term “diversity” is commonly understood to refer to race and ethnicity more than it is to gender or class. But focusing on race or class apart from gender creates false dichotomies. In fact, women and girls are part of every racial and ethnic group from the most privileged to the least: women and girls are included in all economic classes, sexual orientations, disabilities, age groups, and other diversities. And understanding gender also means understanding how men and boys of all races and classes are adversely affected by “gender conformity”—the head counselor in an inner city after-school career program, for example, who discourages a Hispanic boy who wants to be a nursery school teacher; a welfare-to-work initiative that offers parenting classes for mothers but not for fathers; or a large nonprofit legal resource agency that offers “family leave” for both men and women but whose woman CEO through teasing and decisions about promotion implicitly discourages men from making use of the policy.

Diversity also works to democratize boards and staffs of organizations. More diverse boards and staffs have a better shot at being effective. Understanding gender in the context of other diversities like race, class, and culture—which also means understanding the insidious, often subtle and unacknowledged preference for “normal”—is essential for building healthier institutions. Philanthropic and nonprofit leaders interviewed for our book emphasized the need for new language to capture this understanding, so throughout our book, we use the term “deep diversity” to describe an institutionalized understanding of diversity that goes wide as well as deep: