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Equity Toolkit Glossary and Lexicon

Created with thanks to Trent University Faculty Association for their contributions.

Ableism: A system of oppression that includes discrimination and social prejudice against people with intellectual, emotional, and physical disabilities, their exclusion, and the valuing of people and groups that do not have disabilities.

Aboriginal Peoples: Refers to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. Aboriginal is used interchangeably with Indigenous but Aboriginal is preferred by some in Canada as it is the term used in the Canadian Constitution, recognizing rights.

Accessibility: The degree to which physical, pedagogical, professional, and administrative structures enable the full, meaningful, and equitable engagement of all people.[1]

Accommodation: The implementation of changes to support the full participation of each person in a community, institution, or organization by identifying and addressing barriers to access and to opportunities for success.[2] Accommodation can be provided individually (to meet the needs of specific individuals) and/or systematically (to make the community, institution, or organization or more accessible).[3]

Allyship or ally behaviour: The continuous process in which individuals and/or groups with advantage or privilege seek to learn about the experiences of marginalized groups, empathize with their challenges, and actively support their needs. See solidarity.

Anti-oppression (Anti-O): Strategies, theories, actions, and practices that actively challenge systems of oppression on an ongoing basis. Anti-Oppression work seeks to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its effects and eventually eliminate the power imbalance in our communities.[4]

Anti-racism (Anti-R): Strategies, theories, actions and practices that actively challenge systems that perpetuate discrimination against non-White people. As noted by Ibram Kendi, “The opposite of racist isn't 'not racist.' It is 'antiracist.' … One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist.”[5] Anti-racism is a specific anti-oppressive action, and anti-racist training, principles, frameworks, resources and actions are often given, developed and taken along with those of anti-oppression.[6]

Bias: An unreasoned weighting in favour of or against a person or a group based on social identity such as race, gender, class, ability, or sexual orientation.[7] The effects of bias can accumulate over the course of a career, “influencing movement both into and along the academic pipeline, especially at crucial moments such as hiring, tenure, and promotion processes, as well as advancements to mid-level or senior administrative roles.”[8]

Implicit Bias: Unreported bias. Implicit biases include biases a person is, or persons are, unwilling and/or unable to report.

Unconscious Bias: Bias about which a person is, or persons are, unaware. Unconscious biases include “hidden, unintentional preferences… originating in the unconscious mind”.[9]

BIPOC: Acronym used predominately in the United States and Canada that stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour.[10]

“Calling-in” v. “Calling-out”

Terms that refer to different ways in approaching anti-oppression/anti-racist work. Calling-in is where an individual is provided with an opportunity to respond to a problematic issue, such as the use of harmful language, with the aim of encouraging reflection in an empathetic setting. An example would be a private conversation with a colleague to express why a certain expressed opinion may be hurtful.

Calling-out, on the other hand, is typically a more public act, where an individual is admonished or shamed over a problematic issue. An example would be in a public statement or on social media. [11]

Caucus: A caucus is an intentionally created space for those who share an identity to convene for learning, support, and connections. A caucus is different from a committee since the membership of a caucus is fluid, informal and confidential. It is also different in terms of its role in association governance and representation. There are different models of relationship between identity-based caucuses and the association, with some caucuses embedded within the association and others are independent with more ad hoc liaison with associations. The relationships between caucuses and associations also evolve over time.

Cis or Cisgender: Cisgender describes a person whose gender identity is the same as their sex assigned at birth.

Disability: An impairment or functional limitation that hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society or in a specific institution or organization. What counts as a disability is a factor of a person’s attributes in relation to specific social, structural, or institutional policies, standards, and practices. Disabilities can be permanent or episodic.

Persons with disabilities: Persons with a long-term or recurring impairment or functional limitation who consider themselves to be disadvantaged by reason of that impairment or functional limitation, or who believe that others (such as an employer or potential employer) are likely to consider them to be disadvantaged by reason of that impairment or functional limitation. This includes individuals with limitations that have been accommodated.[12]

Discrimination: Any form of unequal treatment based on one or more prohibited grounds, whether imposing extra burdens or denying benefits. It may be intentional or unintentional. Discrimination may take obvious forms, or it may occur in very subtle ways. Where there are many factors affecting a decision or action, if discrimination is one factor, it is a violation of human rights codes and, therefore, discrimination and harassment policies. It is not discrimination or a contravention of human rights codes or anti-harassment and discrimination policies to plan, advertise, adopt or implement a program that has as its objective the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups identified by the protected grounds. [PF1] Legal Basis for Special Equity Programs | CAUT

Disaggregated data: Disaggregated data is data that has been broken down by detailed sub-categories. Disaggregated data can reveal deprivations and inequalities that may not be fully reflected in aggregated data.[13] For example, equity data is often collected using the four designated groups in the federal Employment Equity Act – Aboriginal, women, people living with disabilities and visible minority. Data on sexual orientation and broader categories of gender identity are also often collected in the aggregate. Data should be collected for sub-populations within these broad groups to better measure, understand and address specific impacts. Although imperfect, the Census categories can be used to disaggregate visible minority, Aboriginal should be broken down by First Nations, Inuit and Metis, gender by women, men and non-binary, persons with disabilities into at minimum, physical or mental, and sexual orientation by its sub-groups, for example.[14]

Distributed leadership: A key component of an organizing model for political change that enables many within an organization to assume leadership roles to achieve a common purpose. Also called the “snowflake model,” no one person or group of people holds all the power; responsibility is shared in a sustainable way, and structure aims to create mutual accountability.[15]

Diversity: The realization of variety among individuals within a group or organization reflecting differences in the lived experiences and perspectives of people that may include race, ethnicity, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical disability, mental disability, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, class, and/or socio-economic situations.[16]

EDI (Equity, diversity and inclusion): Equity is the fair and respectful treatment of all people.

Diversity is the demographic mix of the community, with a focus on the representation of Indigenous and equity-deserving or seeking people and inclusion is the creation of an environment where everyone feels welcome, is treated with respect, and can fully participate. [17]Policies are developed to address all of these aspects. This is sometimes also seen at DEI, for diversity, equity and inclusion, and increasingly Justice is added – see JEDI below.

Equal Pay: ​Equal pay compares the pay of similar jobs and differs from pay equity which compares the value and pay of different jobs. In academia, both equal pay and pay equity can be at play, as labour market pay equity issues may be reflected in unequal pay between academic staff in different disciplines.[18]

Equality: Treating, and providing to, every individual the same as every other individual in relation to access to participation, representation, assessment, and/or outcomes.

Equity: Addressing undeserved advantages and disadvantages to allow each person the same opportunities for access to participation, representation, and success as every other person.

Equity-deserving: Gaining traction is a shift in language from equity-seeking to equity-deserving – a term proposed by Professor Wisdom Tettey, Vice President, and Principal of University of Toronto Scarborough. He challenged all of us to “start by thinking of, and relating to, those who are marginalized or are constrained by existing structures and practices as “equity-deserving groups,” and not “equity-seeking groups.” Those on the margins of our community, who feel or are made to feel that they do not belong, deserve equity as a right. They should not be given the burden of seeking it and they should not be made to feel that they get it as a privilege from the generosity of those who have the power to give it, and hence the power to take it back.”[19]

Equity-seeking groups: Groups of people that identify barriers to equal access, opportunities, and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination and actively seek social justice and reparation[20] including marginalized groups that are disproportionately excluded from full participation in society or in an organization or institution. Such groups include but are not limited to women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, or 2-spirited, and racialized persons.[21]

Equity Lens:  A commitment, approach, and tool to continually evaluate any existing or new strategy, policy, or initiative for its differing impact on Indigenous and equity-deserving groups. It is sometimes in Canada, referred to as a gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) approach.[22]

Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+):  GBA+ is an analytical process the federal government has committed to undertaking that assesses how diverse groups of women, men, and gender diverse people may experience policies, programs, and initiatives. The “plus” in GBA+ acknowledges that GBA+ is not just about differences between biological (sexes) and socio-cultural (genders) but many other identity factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability, and how the interaction between these factors influences the way people experience policies and initiatives.[23] This can be used for budgets, policies, and practices.

Gender-based Violence (GBV): GBV can be conceptualized as a large umbrella that encompasses sexual violence. The federal government defines GBV as the use and abuse of control over another person and is perpetrated against someone based on their gender expression, gender identity, or perceived gender. GBV— including violence against women and girls—can take many forms. It is the types of abuse that women, girls, and Two Spirit, trans and non-binary people are at highest risk of experiencing. It can take physical and emotional forms, such as: name-calling, hitting, pushing, blocking, stalking/criminal harassment, rape, sexual assault, control, and manipulation. Many forms of this abuse are against the law.[24]

Gender Identity and Expression: Gender identity is each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is a person’s sense of being a woman, a man, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex. Gender expression is how a person publicly expresses or presents their gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender. Others perceive a person’s gender through these attributes. A person’s gender identity is fundamentally different from and not related to their sexual orientation.[25]

Harassment: A course of vexatious comment or conduct that is based on a protected ground and that is known, or ought to beknown, to be unwelcome. A single egregious incident may constitute harassment.[26]

Sexual Harassment: A form of harassment involving comment or conduct of a sexual nature that is known, or ought to be known, to be unwelcome where:

  • submission to such comment / conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, academic status, or academic accreditation; or
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment, or for academic performance, status or accreditation decisions affecting such individual; or
  • such conduct interferes with an individual's work or academic performance; or
  • such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or academic environment.

Sexual harassment can include but is not limited to:

sexual assault or threats of a sexual nature; unwelcome sexual advances, invitations, or requests; demands for sexual favours; innuendos, taunting or degrading words about a person's body, appearance, or gender/sexual orientation; leering; sexually derogatory or offensive remarks about an individual; inquiries or comments about a person’s sex life; and displays of degrading or offensive sexual material including sexual jokes.[27]

IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, People of Colour): IBPOC is a contemporary term that refers to Indigenous, Black and People of Colour. Its origins are in the USA where the term is expressed as BIPOC. This formulation is sometimes used in Canada as well. IBPOC notes “First Peoples first”. [28]

Inclusion: The creation of an environment where everyone feels welcome, valued, and respected, focusing on groups that remain underrepresented within a community, organization, or institution. It is a commitment to an active, intentional, and continuous process to address differences in power and privilege. An inclusive organization is one in which every person has opportunities to participate in, and contribute to, the successes of the organization.[29]

Inclusive language: There are ways to talk about the characteristics that distinguish marginalized groups from non-marginalized groups in a manner that is accurate and respectfully recognizes those differences. This involves describing individuals as people with distinguishing characteristics rather than as those characteristics -- for example: “Black people” rather than “Blacks”; a person living with schizophrenia rather than “a schizophrenic”. It is also important to avoid discriminatory or offensive phrases for example, the blind leading the blind; an expression which creates an association between a physical disability and a misguided approach to dealing with a situation. Another example is “low man on the totem pole” which trivializes the cultural importance of the totem pole. [30]

Indigenous Peoples: Refers to First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, either collectively or separately, and is a preferred term in international usage, e.g., the ‘U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’ Synonymous with Aboriginal Peoples.

Indigenization: The process of bringing Indigenous peoples, cultures, traditions, knowledge, and ways of knowing into all facets of a community or organization such as university governance, planning, programming, research activity, and recruitment.[31] This requires recognition of, and respect for, Indigenous knowledges as valid ways of understanding the world.[32]

Institutional or Systemic Racism: Normalized practices and policies within an organization that disadvantage members of certain racial groups. Institutional or systemic racism can exist even in the absence of racist individuals. Systemic/institutional racism can manifest itself both overtly and covertly through a denial of opportunity that is embedded in institutional processes and institutional cultures.

Intersectionality: A focus on the simultaneous overlapping of multiple forms of oppression and privilege reflecting how race, class, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality are mutually influencing systems of power.

JEDI:  An acronym for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. [33]

Marginalization: A social process by which individuals or groups are (intentionally or unintentionally) distanced from access to power and resources and constructed as insignificant, peripheral, or less valuable/privileged to a community or “mainstream” society. Examples of marginalized groups include but are not limited to those excluded due to race, religion, political or cultural group, age, gender, or financial status. To what extent such populations are marginalized is context specific and reliant on the cultural organization of the social site in question.[34]

Microaggressions: Microaggressions are verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities and take various forms such as micro-assault, micro-insult and micro-invalidation. Microaggressions need to be understood in the context of the multiple forms of structural and systemic discrimination and in the context of power relations in the workplace and in society.[35]   

Oppression:  The unjust treatment or exercise of power and control by some (privileged or dominant) group or groups of people over other (oppressed or subordinate) group or groups of people resulting from and maintained by social, systemic, and/or institutional values (including prejudice), policies, and practices. Oppression is manifest in the exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, dominance over, and/or violence towards members of the subordinate group.  Oppression can be overt or covert.

Pay Equity: Pay equity compares the value and pay of different jobs in contrast to equal pay which looks at difference in pay for the same job. In academia, as academic staff are seen to be in the same job class, pay equity legislation is difficult to apply even though broader labour market pay equity issues may be reflected in unequal pay between academic staff in different disciplines.[36]

People of Colour: A term synonymous for racialized or visible minority people. Black and Indigenous are typically disaggregated in recognition of the specific histories of discrimination and colonization in North America of these groups.

Privilege: A favoured state, earned or unearned, that can work to systematically overpower or disempower certain groups.[37]

Racialization: The social construction of race as real, different, and unequal in ways that matter to economic, political and social life[38]. This inequality refers not only to social attitudes towards non-dominant ethnic and racial groups but also to social structures, legal authorities, and institutional controls which oppress, exclude, limit and discriminate against such individuals and groups.

Racism: The belief that perceived physical racial differences are linked to significant cultural and social differences and that these innate hierarchical differences can be measured and judged; the practice of subordinating races believed to be inferior.[39]

SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression): This acronym is sometimes used instead of 2SLGBTQIA+. For definitions of disaggregated terminology for these categories, visit Egale 2SLGBTQI Glossary of Terms.

Solidarity: To unite with people behind a common goal or purpose. Any time you act in support of a group or the people in it, you are showing solidarity with them. It can differ from allyship, in that solidarity actions are undertaken in recognition of the destructiveness of an issue for all humanity, whereas sometimes allyship can be ‘performed’ to ‘help’ a marginalized person or group.[40]

Systemic Discrimination: Where patterns of behaviour, policies or practices which are part of an organization’s structure unintentionally create or perpetuate disadvantage for a group of persons who are identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination.[41]

Visible Minorities: Persons in Canada, other than Indigenous peoples, who are socially perceived as non-White. [42] As racialized people may not be visibly so, and as many racialized people live in areas in Canada where they are not minorities, BIPOC or racialized are preferred terms.

Whiteness: A shorthand for the privileges and power that people who appear white receive because they are not subjected to the racism faced by BIPOC academic staff.[43]


[1] Derived from Our Guiding Principles for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity The original statement focused on the engagement of all members of the community rather than of all people.

[4] Derived from University of British Columbia. “EDI Glossary.”

[5] Kendi, I.X. (2019). How to be an Antiracist. Random House Publishing Group.

[6] Butler, Alana, et al. (2020). Anti-Oppression/Anti-Racism Resources for Educators guide. Queen’s University, Faculty of Education.

[7] Adapted from the account of unconscious bias in The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities (2017).

[10] See The New York Times. “Where Did BIPOC Come From?” (17 June 2020).

[11] See Loretta Ross in The New York Times. What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?, November 19, 2020.

[12] This definition is derived from the Employment Equity Act.

[13] Glossary. Right to Education Initiative. 2022.

[15] Ganz, Marshall. (2014) Organizing: People, Power, Change.

[17] University of Toronto. Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

[22] Adapted from the Utah System of Higher Education Equity Lens Framework (2020). Utah System of Higher Education Equity Lens Framework

[24] Possibility Seeds. (2019). Courage to Act: Developing a National Framework to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence at Post-Secondary Institutions, and Canadian Women’s Foundation. (2021). The Facts about Gender-based Violence.

[25] Definition from the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Gender identity and gender expresssion

[26] Definition from Appendix C of TUFA C.A.: 7.4.

[27] Definition from Appendix C of TUFA C.A.: 7.5.

[29] .Adapted from U of Toronto Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and incorporating elements from UBC Equity & Inclusion Glossary of Terms.

[30] Informed by Claybourn, Marvin. CAUT Equity Committee member; Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. (2015). Use these culturally offensive phrases, questions at your own risk; University of Victoria Style Guide, Section 5 Inclusive Language.

[31] Derived from the definition provided in Council of Ontario Universities’ report: “Deepening our relationship: Partnering with Aboriginal Communities to Strengthen Ontario Campuses”.

[32] Adapted from the document entitled “Vision for Trent University”

[33] Truong, Kimberly. (2021). From DEI to JEDI.

[35] Salojee, Anver and Penni Stuart. (2016). CAUT Bulletin. Commentary / Intense scrutiny over microaggressions

[37] Adapted from “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” (McIntosh 1989)

[38] Derived from Ontario Human Rights Commission. Paying the price: The human cost of racial profiling.

[39] Adapted from “Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach” (Golash-Boza, 2015)

[40] New York University. (2020) Allyship vs. Solidarity.

[41] Definition fromAppendix C of TUFA C.A.: 7.3.

[42]Derived from the Employment Equity Act and from The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities (2017).