Primary vs. Secondary Dimensions of Diversity

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What are the dimensions of diversity?

Diversity means celebrating what makes each individual extraordinary. It’s the deep factors that contribute to who we are as people, our place in the world, and our viewpoints on life’s joys and pains. 

It’s the factors that differentiate groups of people through aspects like ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, and socio-economic status. 

Though there are several aspects of diversity, we can categorize dimensions of diversity into primary and secondary to better understand how these aspects contribute to biases, discrimination, and harassment. 

There is good news because as we understand these dimensions and the attributes diversity takes on, we can work towards eliminating unhealthy behaviors and attitudes. Let’s explore diversity’s primary and secondary dimensions to learn how we can be captains of DEI. 

Primary Dimensions of Diversity

As biologically similar as humans are, there are some characteristics that make us all unique. These are the primary dimensions of diversity, the attributes that we don’t have control over, such as our age, ethnicity, or mental and physical abilities. Here’s a deeper look at several primary diversity dimensions.  

Age Diversity

“Age is just a number,” as the saying goes, and science continues to prove that statement. However, in the workplace, age diversity is a constant struggle because there are so many generations represented in the modern workforce. By some estimates, as many as five generational segments contribute to employment statistics. 

Unfortunately, with the wide range of generations also comes a wide range of potential discrimination. Some employers view older employees as lacking the stamina for management status and incapable of using new technology. Likewise, many consider younger employees as inexperienced or untrustworthy. 

Businesses that value age-diverse workplaces employ people of all ages. The older generation provides mentorship opportunities, new perspectives, and problem-solving skills, while younger generations provide stamina, technological prowess, and creative insight. 

Ethnic Heritage

Ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, and family status connect individuals to their peers through a common national origin, religious beliefs, cultural standards, and linguistic similarities. These characteristics extend to customs, behaviors, spiritual beliefs, food, and even art. 

Ethnic heritage is an internal dimension of diversity that shapes experiences and molds worldviews. When there is a lack of sensitivity toward different cultures, misunderstandings form that degrade into unconscious bias or, worse—microaggressions and harassment. 

Stay ahead of your company culture with group training sessions at CoachDiversity Institute. Our experts provide priceless education that brings awareness and bridges cultural gaps so everyone feels included in helping to eliminate inequities.


Gender is a primary dimension that continues to evolve as understanding grows. Gender differs from sex, which is biological with physical characteristics, like organs, hormones, and chromosomes, but still drives diversity.

Gender refers to attributes, behaviors, familial roles, and self-image associated with gender types. Now, there is growing recognition that gender exists in a fluid state on a spectrum.

Mental and Physical Abilities

Mental and physical abilities cover the capabilities of an individual’s mind and body. Where physical capacities are aspects like endurance, dexterity, mobility, and strength, mental abilities are aspects like understanding facts and concepts, retaining information, learning, and complex reasoning. 

Many individuals experience disabilities, whether physical or mental and struggle to overcome discrimination. Workplaces should extend job opportunities to this underemployed group and bring a new level of skill to the organizational dimension. 


Race is a tricky primary dimension, as many people equate demographic differences to race. However, this view isn’t entirely accurate, as race is a social construct based on perceived inherited differences used to justify behaviors towards people of color. 

Many people confuse race with ethnicity and claim that race attributes to biological differences. The problem is that science tells us that humans are more biologically alike than we are different, making the concept of race fall flat on its face. 

Many underrepresented groups still wrestle with the race question. Race is still a question on census reporting, job applications, credit card forms, and other government forms. We can all do more to remove this toxic external dimension from continuing to pervade our lexicon.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation, or identity, is a self-recognition of one’s emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people. When people hear sexual orientation, the first thought is of the LGBTQ+ community, but in reality, sexual orientation covers the sexual identities of all individuals, including heterosexual and asexual. 

There are many ways individuals can define their sexual orientation, but none of them impact a person’s ability to perform essential job functions. Like marital status, political beliefs, and parental status, unless someone wants to share, there’s no need to know.

Secondary Dimensions of Diversity

Secondary dimensions of diversity, or deep-level diversity, are dimensions on the outside ring of the diversity wheel and are aspects that people may or may not have some control over or are not readily visible to others. Let’s explore what some secondary dimensions look like. 


Religion, religious beliefs or denominations, and spiritual beliefs are all pledges of devotion. Although sometimes attributed to cultures, geographic locations, or regions, many attitudes and behaviors reflect religious doctrine, and it’s important not to stereotype. 

While many people are familiar with Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism, more than 4,000 recognized religions and sub-denominations have varying practices, holidays, and traditions.  

With so many beliefs, adapting to new religious holiday requests can be challenging. To avoid any conflict, download a diversity calendar filled with observations and important days for cultures worldwide. 

Work Experience

Work experience is the working background, internship history, volunteer track records, military experience, employment status, job gaps, union affiliation, or any other working participation of individuals. In simplest terms, it’s how individuals earn money and fill their time productively. 

Unfortunately, these aspects contribute to discrimination and potential harassment. For example, pregnant women struggle to find work after having a child because of a gap in employment, or a military vet gets denied medical treatment because of pre-existing conditions received while serving the country. 

Further barriers are present as political affiliations and traditionally homogenous industries still propagate a discriminatory and non-inclusive work environment. Human beings of all kinds, regardless of work experience, have a right to equal opportunity for future gainful employment. 


Pursuing an education, attending educational institutes, or lacking a formal educational background is another aspect of diversity that creates some discrimination. For decades, institutions worldwide pushed students toward a traditional college education after high school, creating a derogatory view of people with alternative forms of higher education.

The pandemic shook that view, as many industries struggled to find staff as businesses started to re-open, especially those in trade industries. A fundamental need to reconceptualize how we view different forms of education is vital to breaking down socio-economic barriers and will also fill the gaping void in skilled labor. 


Income is along the same lines as work experience and socio-economic status. It’s the money we make, how much we make, how much we are worth, and our place within the structured socio-economic class. 

There are still substantial income disparities in underrepresented groups, despite heated conversations. A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that between 2011 and 2018, non-Hispanic healthcare workers consistently made more money than their Hispanic counterparts, despite similar experience, certifications, and institutions. 

Geographic Location

As our world becomes ever more globally connected, businesses find an increased talent pool through remote work. These businesses are leveraging the internet to power a workforce independent of geographic location, allowing employees from anywhere to commute digitally. 

Despite the benefits, geographic location can come with some lifestyle nuances and the need for awareness of employee needs. For example, if a home office is in New York, but the company employs staff from Europe or Asia, communication styles, meeting times, and cultural standards will need attention. 

Organizations are taking advantage of the benefits remote employment brings. It’s also an excellent opportunity to fill your talent pool with highly qualified candidates without needing nearby housing.

Furthermore, biases on geographic locations inform stereotypes on class, education, access, and more. It is important to be conscious of these differences and to avoid stereotyping based on where a person is located.

Learn the Dimensions of Diversity Today with CoachDiversity

Understanding what diversity means and how to recognize the dimensions of diversity will be invaluable as you continue to shift company culture to be more diverse, inclusive, and equitable. From primary dimensions like age, ethnic heritage, and sexual orientation to secondary dimensions like religion, work experience, or income, you have a beautiful cultural fabric. 

Expand that fabric with corporate diversity training and bring your team a whole new level of understanding. CoachDiversity Institute’s world-class training provides the tools and techniques needed to recognize unconscious bias, harassment, and discrimination—eliminating it whenever they pop up! Call us today to enroll your team in this life-changing education!