How Social Workers Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

What is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Social Work?

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Diversity is about respecting, celebrating, and finding value in people’s differences.

Ensuring equity means recognizing that each person has different circumstances and allocating resources and opportunities appropriately to reach an equal outcome.

Inclusion is about valuing, respecting, and supporting individuals' needs to build a culture where everyone feels welcome.

What is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Social Work?

In the context of social work, diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to our mission to enhance human well-being and help meet all people’s basic needs — especially those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.

Effective social workers learn to recognize individuals’ complex and intersecting identities, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or disability, to understand how their experiences and defining influences affect how they perceive and respond to the world.

Provide the best care and
service for your clients

Learn 5 Ways to Embrace Diversity in Social Work


Cultural Competence vs.
Cultural Humility in Social Work

The process through which social workers gather and transform information about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes to increase the quality of services and produce better outcomes is known as cultural competence.


What is Cultural Competence?

Cultural competence doesn’t come naturally — it requires a high level of professionalism and knowledge in addition to the incorporation of skillful and effective action. According to the National Association of Social Workers, a culturally competent social worker or system must:

  1. Value Diversity
  2. Have the capacity for cultural self-assessment
  3. Be conscious of the dynamics inherent when cultures interact
  4. Institutionalize cultural knowledge
  5. Develop programs and services that reflect an understanding of the diversity between and within cultures

Build stronger, more meaningful relationships with your clients

Read the blog Why an Understanding of Diversity is Important to Social Work


What’s the difference between cultural humility and cultural competence?

Recently, social workers and other helping professionals have come to recognize that elements of cultural competence can run counter to the idea of inclusion. While it’s valuable for social workers to learn to tailor their approach to be culturally responsive and sensitive, the term “cultural competence” suggests the ability to master a culture other than one’s own and can lead to stereotyping, stigmatizing and othering clients.

On the other hand, cultural humility is a self-first approach to sociocultural differences that emphasizes intersectionality and understanding one’s own implicit biases.

While competence suggests mastery, cultural humility is about approaching care with a willingness to learn from clients about their experiences while maintaining awareness of your own cultural embeddedness.

Social workers who are trained in cultural humility are able to reflect on their own beliefs, values and biases — both implicit and explicit — to adopt a person-centered approach that can improve communication and quality of care.

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To build an understanding of minority cultures to better and more appropriately provide services.

To encourage personal reflection and growth around culture in order to increase service providers’ awareness.


  • Knowledge
  • Training
  • Introspection
  • Co-learning


  • Enforces the idea that there can be “competence” in a culture other than one’s own.
  • Supports the myth that cultures are monolithic. Based upon academic knowledge rather than lived experience.
  • Challenging for professionals to grasp the idea of learning with and from clients.
  • No end result, which those in academia and medical fields can struggle with.


  • Allows for people to strive to obtain a goal.
  • Promotes skill-building.
  • Encourages lifelong learning with no end goal but rather an appreciation of the journey of growth and understanding.
  • Puts professionals and clients in a mutually beneficial relationship and attempts to diminish damaging power dynamics.

Power, privilege, and identity politics all play a role in social work for social justice. Explore a new lens to understand how race influences all aspects of society, including social work practice on our blog.


Using Anti-Oppressive Practice
in Social Work

At the Garland School, we promote our work for racial equity, the voices of women, LGBTQ+ rights and care for immigrants through an anti-oppressive framework. Our approach to working for justice is informed by our Christian faith, as well as our professional values and ethics, which reinforce the call to anti-oppressive social work.


What is Anti-Oppressive Practice?

The driving force of anti-oppressive practice (AOP) is the act of challenging inequalities. AOP gives social workers a framework to provide services while aiming to understand how social inequality and structures of oppression create disadvantages, and actively working to eradicate oppression and challenge power structures through collective institutional and societal changes.

At the intersection of faith and practice where the Garland School focuses much of our work, we hear the call to anti-oppressive social work reinforced. With AOP at the forefront of our teachings, we actively seek to challenge power inequities, center the lives of people who have been marginalized, and work for liberation for people who are oppressed.

What Are Practical Implementations of AOP in Social Work?

Examples of Social Worker Roles in
Anti-Oppressive Practice



Continuously learn from service users about their lived experiences and knowledge, skills, and strengths

To foster a sense of control, agency, and self-determination in the service user


Continuously learn from service users about their lived experiences and knowledge, skills, and strengths

To foster a sense of control, agency, and self-determination in the service user

Empathetic listener

Use active and reflective listening skills, convey positive regard, warmth, and respect

To develop a strong therapeutic relationship and build trust with the service user


Collaboratively provide knowledge and share experiences; provide information and perspective where applicable

To help a service user’s networks be better informed and better able to support them


Create opportunities for service users to become skilled at obtaining resources and support by acting as an “empowerer”, not a “rescuer”

To promote service user’s ability to see themselves as active agents responsible for change


Promote a sense of cooperation and join responsibility to meet the service users’ needs; promote partnerships and engagement with other supportive groups/communities

To help service users find new or alternative support and resources


Promote cooperation and collaboration between service users; negotiate tensions if incidents arise

To support health interactions between service users and promote building of conflict resolution skills

Social Work and Social Justice:
Baylor’s Commitment to DEI

Antiracism & Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice

The Garland School of Social Work seeks to produce ethical social work practitioners committed to anti-oppressive practices and the empowerment of all people. Anti-oppressive social work is a frame we are striving to use in the Garland School to promote our work for equality, honoring the dignity and worth of all people, with a focus on underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Read the GGSW Antiracism Statement

Race Equity Work Team

Our commitment to work for racial equity includes the appointment of a Race Equity Work Team designed to identify elements in the school where the team can work alongside faculty and staff to create change.

Educating Ourselves for Racial Justice

Faculty and staff at the Garland School continuously find and share resources for students, teachers, agencies, congregations and others to use across a number of disciplines and for a number of ministries and/or research projects. Here are some examples in our work of learning about and working toward racial justice.

LGBTQ+ Commitment to Inclusion

The Garland School has made clear its commitment to students and alumni that we are seeking to be a caring, Christian community for colleagues who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community and have been misunderstood, maligned, and marginalized in our society. Our faculty and staff have worked with LGBT students on campus for many years and seek to assure that each social work student is prepared to work with anyone they serve professionally in a nondiscriminatory manner.

Join the Social Work Profession &
Commit to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

At the Garland School of Social Work, our efforts to use the anti-oppresive framework are rooted in an intersectional approach that is race-focused first but also seeks to work for justice related to experiences of ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, class and age. Intersectionality and anti-oppressive practices are increasingly at the core of our teaching and research.

As a student in the Master of Social Work program at Baylor, you’ll get a well-rounded education focused on social justice and the ethical intersection of faith and practice. Our program prepares professional social workers who can assess and build on the strengths of persons, families and communities.

If you’re interested in how an MSW can prepare you for a meaningful career in social work or have any questions about our approach, please feel free to book a call with us. Our team is committed to answering your questions and helping you learn more about the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.




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