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Understanding Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

How do we define diversity, equity, and inclusion? Why does it matter for the work we do as volunteers? The Arboretum is about plants, nature, research, and enjoyment.....but it's FOR everyone. It is core to our principles that we share information with others. Understanding diversity, equity, and inclusion are key to sharing information in a way that can be heard and valued.

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We understand that biodiversity is important in healthy ecosystems. Without biodiversity, the essential connections between species that support the health of our air, water, and climate are broken. Just as biodiversity is the measure of a healthy ecosystem, integrated diversity is a measure of a healthy society. Integrated diversity values each person as they are, including differences and similarities. We can define diversity as difference - subtle and overt.

For our purposes, inclusion means creating a sense of belonging for everyone.Access does not equal inclusion.Have you ever been to a party where you didn't know anyone? You had access to that party, but were you included? What was your experience? Did the host make you feel genuinely welcome? How did the other guests treat you? Reflect on the kinds of things that make you feel included and foster a curiosity about what others might find welcoming or off-putting. Our job is to do our best to create an environment that is welcoming for all.

What is inclusion?

Understanding equity helps us offer the tools needed within specific communities by working within them and being guided by their voices. The science behind our work is steadfast but also ever-changing based on new information - so should be our approach

Equality is providing the same opportunity for everyone, regardless of background, socioeconomic status, race, gender, and so forth. Equity goes a step beyond that by taking a person's lived experience into account and providing what is needed to succeed.

Equity is not equality

Our understanding of diversity is expanding, as is our ability to build empathy and awareness. Let's briefly explore three types of diversity and how they function in our world today.

The Changing Landscape

1. Disability

Disability can take many forms, visible and invisible. Emerging attitudes about physical and neurodiversity are positive and focused on inclusion. Inclusive design, also known as universal design, benefits everyone and not just those that require accommodations. People with disabilities have traditionally been underemployed (only 40% of adults with disabilities in their prime working years (ages 25-54) have a job, compared to 79% of all prime-age adults). According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 Americans lives with a mental health condition. More and more people are “coming out” about living with mental health conditions. The stigma associated with mental illness is being addressed widely, with celebrities being open - and with campaigns like #CureStigma


Though often used interchangeably, sex and gender are not the same. Sex refers to biology. Male and female are biological terms referring to chromosomes, internal and external genitalia, and hormones. Gender refers to the spectrum of attitudes, expectations, and self-perception of any individual or group.

  • California, Colorado, Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, New York and Washington allow people to amend their birth certificates to replace their sex with a nonbinary designation (neither male nor female)
  • Fourteen states allow a third gender option for residents applying for driver's licenses. In addition to "M" and "F," "X" can now be checked
  • Nevada is the 10th state or region to offer a gender-neutral designation on IDs.
  • Millennials now make up over 1/3 of the U.S. workforce & a LGBTQ media organization estimates as many as 12% of millennials may identify as transgender or non-binary. We are seeing a significant increase in individuals using “they/them” pronouns rather than just “she/her” or “he/him.”

2. Gender

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In the U.S., race is often the predicting factor in food and housing security, environmental health, access to goods and services, and quality medical care. To be most effective in our work, we must strive to understand the impact of race and work to mitigate bias within ourselves.The new statistics project that the nation will become “minority white” in 2045.For youth under 18, “minorities” will outnumber whites in 2020. For those aged 18-29 –members of the younger labor force and voting age populations– the tipping point will occur in 2027.PBS offers some fascinating films and specials focused on race

3. Race

  • The Value of Diversity - Katherine W. Phillips, "How Diversity Makes Us Smarter: Being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent, and harder working," Scientific American, 10/1/14
  • The Changing Landscape: Disability - Julia Horowitz, "More people with disabilities are getting jobs. Here's why." CNN Business, 1/26/18
  • The Changing Landscape: Race - William H. Frey, "The US will become 'Minority White' in 2045, Census projects," Brookings, 3/14/18


Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, and more) are more innovative than homogeneous groups. This is not only because people with different backgrounds bring new information. Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints, and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.

Diversity is valuable