Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Definitions: Employer of Choice Website

Women Building Futures (WBF) has more than twenty years of expertise and research in diversity, equity and inclusion with a focus on gender equality and advancing economic security.  Working closely with industry partners and organizations, we address barriers and deliver training programs that prepare women for sustainable careers with employers that are committed to safe, respectful and diverse workplaces. 

We provide the following definitions for a shared understanding of terms used in the assessment tool.  Our purpose for including definitions is to create a foundation for further discussion and learning.  The language we use is intended to be expansive, rather than restrictive. These terms may evolve and change as we continue to learn together. 



There are two types of bias: explicit and implicit (or unconscious). In the literature, the terms implicit and unconscious are used interchangeably. Explicit biases are those judgements and preferences that we are acutely aware of, like our political leanings or our religious beliefs. The results of these biases means that we vote for a particular political party or we attend certain churches or participate in certain religious practices. If you are a hockey fan, think about the team you cheer for – that is your explicit bias at play. We may not always articulate our explicit biases but we are aware they exist. On the flip side, unconscious biases are the judgements and preferences that operate outside of our conscious awareness, yet they also affect our attitudes and behaviors. However, because we are not aware of them, we may be oblivious to their impacts.



Refers to exclusion, prejudice or restriction of opportunity because of one’s belonging to a category of people or things (e.g. gender, disability, religion, age, ethnicity, etc).


Consists of the conditions, expressions and experiences of different groups identified by age, culture, ethnicity, education, gender, disability, sexual orientation, migration status, geography, language and religious beliefs (and other factors).



The identification and removal of prejudices and barriers where all people because of their diversity are valued, respected and understood and receive equal access to rights and opportunities.


Means the fairness of treatment according to people’s respective needs which may require different treatment or compensation for historical, social or physical disadvantages. These are the measures put in place to achieve equality.

External Diversity Networks

Organizations that serve underrepresented groups or dedicated to ethno-cultural populations.



Refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed.  This includes norms, behaviours and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl or boy, as well as relationships with each other. As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can change over time.


Is synonymous with Non-Binary and serves as an umbrella term to refer to a range of gender diverse identities and expressions that do not fall within the gender binary of ’male’ and ’female’. The terms used to describe these gender identities are constantly evolving and reflect personal gender identity, experience and expression.



Creating an environment where people, in all of their diversity, feel respected, accepted, supported and valued, allowing everyone to fully participate and thrive in society.


Pay Equity

Canadians have the right to experience workplace compensation practices that are free from gender-based discrimination. Pay equity aims to ensure that employers provide you with equal pay for doing work of equal value.



Secure line of communication that respects privacy, allowing for anonymity and advocacy. It is objective and investigates incidents and complaints in a timely fashion. Employers also need to reflect on their own workplace culture that fosters shame and fear among employees anticipating repercussions for speaking up.

Systemic Barriers

A barrier is an obstacle or an obstruction in the process of things. It can be a system, a party, or even an individual. Barriers limit or prevent people from achieving equality. These elements can cause a hindrance for others from performing their best, exploring their potentials, or stopping their progress completely. Breaking barriers in history is never easy.

Systemic barriers slow down processes, limit growth, or they can cause problems in particular ecosystems. These kinds of barriers are often practiced for a long time and can take even longer to overcome. Systemic barriers usually exist in economic policies or organizational practices.

However, barriers are not always and don’t necessarily mean barriers that are prejudice or discriminatory in nature. Any form of obstruction or hindrance to a process, operation, or activity, etc., can be considered a barrier. When addressing barriers to inclusion in the workplace, leaders can provide accommodations and processes so that individuals can participate and be more fully engaged in the workplace. It’s an important first step but the real goal should be to remove the barriers completely so that everyone can work barrier-free.


Truth and Reconciliation’s Call to Actions

To redress the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation, in its final report the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called on governments, educational and religious institutions, civil society groups and all Canadians to take action on the 94 Calls to Action it identified. On December 15, 2015, the Prime Minister reiterated the Government of Canada’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the commission.


Workplace Harassment

Is comprised of any unwelcome or objectionable, physical, visual or verbal conduct, comment or display, whether intended or unintended, that is insulting, humiliating or degrading to another person, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment and/or is on the basis of race, ethnicity, language, financial ability, religion, gender or sexual orientation, disability or age, or any kind of discrimination which is prohibited by particular provincial legislation.