The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence Dimensions of Diversity

Diversity, the ways in which humans are similar and different, is and always has been a reality in the work- place as well as on campuses. Inclusion, on the other hand, is a choice. How an organization defines diversity forms the basis of its diversity and inclusion process and frames the conversations of leaders and employees, administrators and students. The dimensions of diversity depict those categories of similarity and difference around which there is inclusion and exclusion. Developed by Lee Gardenswartz and Anita Rowe, the model depicting the Four Layers of Diversity illustrates a wide range of differences that affect interactions and orga- nizational operations.

This entry illustrates the dimensions of diversity from a widely used model of various aspects of the diversity construct. With personality at the core, the model includes elements of diversity that are generally outside the individual’s control, including age, gender, ethnicity, physical/mental ability, sexual orientation, and race. The next ring of the model identifies the external aspects of diversity that affect an individual’s identity. Finally, the last ring enumerates aspects of the organization that affect diversity within. At each level, the impact of diver- sity on domestic and global organizations, in both corporate and academic contexts, will be explored.


At the center of the model is personality, the unique style of interacting that each individual has. Some people are introverted, while others are outgoing; some confront in conflict, and others seek harmony; some are more reflective and introspective, others more active and outspoken. Organizations often have preferred styles: for example, “We like self-starters and go-getters here” or “If you’re not analytical, no one will listen to your ideas.”

Internal Dimensions of Diversity

Beyond the central core of personality, the six internal dimensions of diversity, referred to in the early days of diversity work as primary dimensionsby Marilyn Loden and Judy Rosener, have a profound influence on perceptions, expectations, and opportunities. In addition, these dimensions are, for the most part, beyond an individual’s control. The six primary dimensions are age, gender, ethnicity, physical/mental ability, sexual ori- entation, and race.

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