Diversity: Development of the term and intersectionality

The term "diversity" refers to the difference, inequality and individuality that exists between people and thus also between the members or reference groups in an organisation. There are two ways of defining diversity: "diversity as differences" and "diversity as differences and similarities" (Krell / Sieben 2011: 157).

Diversity as differences and commonalities.
The first variant captures personal diversity in terms of various attributions, such as "people with a migration background". The second variant does not make any fixed descriptions, but assumes that people always differ in several characteristics and at the same time agree in other characteristics. For example, people can differ in gender but belong to the same age group and/or religion (Krell / Sieben 2011: 158). Such an individual, group-specific and intersectional approach is intended to avoid stereotyping.

Diversity as a relational, context-dependent concept.
The list of possible dimensions of diversity or diversity as a construct can be infinitely long. These dimensions never stand alone, but intertwine and interact (Bendl / Hanappi-Egger 2009: 562). Diversity is a relational concept that strongly depends on the respective context. Depending on the context, different categories and characteristics or dimensions are included (Hofmann 2012: 30).
In Germany, there are several legal provisions that stipulate the equal treatment of persons with different characteristics. In addition to the Constitution (Art. 3, para. 3), anti-discriminatory regulations are laid down by law in the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) of 2006. This aims to "prevent or eliminate discrimination on grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual identity" (Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency 2006: 6).

Relevant dimensions of diversity.
These dimensions must be supplemented for higher education by the dimension of "social background", which includes both financial and habitual as well as educational resources that can be drawn upon in the form of informal knowledge from the family. Social background is particularly relevant in the context of education because access is more difficult for people from non-academic families, thereby reproducing existing inequalities (Möller 2015; Graf 2014).
Supplemented by the dimension of "social origin", gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, migration, nationality, religion/belief, disability and age are the categories that must be used to avoid discrimination and privilege. These dimensions are considered intersectional:

Intersectionality is understood to mean that social categories such as gender, ethnicity, nation or class cannot be conceptualised in isolation from each other, but must be analysed in their 'interweavings' or 'intersections'. Additive perspectives are to be overcome by focusing on the simultaneous interaction of social inequalities. Accordingly, it is not only a matter of taking several social categories into account, but also of analysing their interactions. (Walgenbach 2012)
For example, a person may be privileged because of his or her social background and financial resources and yet be excluded from access to leadership positions because of age or gender.

Social power structures
Social categories and the power relations that arise from them are interrelated. The focus is on social inequalities resulting from power imbalances, the unequal distribution of resources as well as individual preconditions (Walgenbach 2017: 65 f.). Furthermore, it is assumed that these very power relations (in the form of racism, sexism or social inequality) are firmly anchored in social structures and operate at different levels (macro, meso, micro) (Walgenbach 2017: 66). In the German-speaking field, gender studies has been intensively concerned since the early 2000s with the question of how complex power relations are linked (e.g. Lutz et al. 2012, Klinger / Knapp 2007) and is increasingly focusing on the diversity of people's life situations in research and teaching as well as in organisational structures (Blome et al. 2013: 91).