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What's In a Word?

As Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access initiatives are being implemented and acknowledged in the corporate setting with the prioritized approach that’s been long overdue, it’s important that organizations and individuals are attentive to appropriate language and method in the delivery of necessary education to their staff and peers. While recognizing words and phrases that shouldn’t be used is important, it’s also important to understand and convey why individuals should refrain from using the terms.

As organizations continue the efforts in diversifying their team with adequate representation, some common remarks being used in interview and onboarding sessions can produce red flags to diverse candidates and may lead them to discontinue their interest in the organization or opportunity. An example of this would be using the expression “Unicorn”. If an employer is hiring for a position that has many intricate and focused requirements and wants to hire a diverse candidate for the role, they may say “Yeah, with all our demands we’re really looking for a unicorn”. This may not jump out to many as offensive at first, however, Unicorns are commonly defined as “something highly desirable, but difficult to find or obtain”. This phrasing, when used to describe diversity, can be distasteful by insinuating that diversity does not exist within certain industries. This phrasing can also make an individual feel like just another check mark in a list of goals. As we know from the disappointing news delivered to us as children, unicorns don’t exist. The comparison of a group of individuals with a history of corporate hiring oppression, to a mythical or made-up creature, can be incredibly discerning and can do more harm than intended.

Another common remark heard inside and outside the corporate world, is minority. Again, to many, minority is a descriptive word in identifying people of color. However, the word minority is described and defined as a group smaller and less-than. DEIA initiatives fight for equality and recognition, and referring to the diverse population as less-than or small is contributing to the divide that the exertion of DEIA education and trainings are working to dismantle.

Holding employers and organizations accountable on the verbiage and approach to DEIA inclusivity is only supporting the continued education to cultivate equality and access for all.

REACH, a nonprofit organization committed to providing education and training to organizations around DEIA initiatives, is a sister company to Diverse Talent, an executive search and placement firm. Both organizations provide access, recognition, and resources in diversifying the corporate world. For more information about REACH, visit For more information about Diverse Talent, visit

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