Agency - Definition and Explanation

Agency – Definition and Explanation

Understanding Agency in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): Definition and Examples

In the realm of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the term “agency” holds significant importance. But what does it mean, and why is it crucial in fostering inclusive environments? 


Agency, in the context of DEI, refers to an individual’s capacity to act independently and make choices that influence their lives and surroundings. It encompasses the ability to advocate for oneself, make decisions, and take control of one’s circumstances. Within organisations and communities, agency empowers individuals to voice their perspectives, access resources, and contribute to decision-making processes.

Importance of Agency in DEI:

  1. Empowerment: Agency is fundamental to empowering marginalised groups. It enables them to challenge systemic barriers, advocate for their rights, and actively participate in initiatives aimed at achieving equity and inclusion.
  2. Voice and Representation: Agency ensures that diverse voices are heard and valued. By granting individuals the autonomy to express their identities and experiences, organisations can cultivate an inclusive environment where everyone feels respected and represented.
  3. Ownership and Accountability: When individuals possess agency, they take ownership of their actions and responsibilities. In the context of DEI, this means holding oneself and others accountable for promoting fairness, challenging biases, and fostering a culture of inclusivity.
  4. Innovation and Creativity: Agency fosters innovation by fostering diverse perspectives and ideas. When individuals feel empowered to contribute their unique insights, organisations can leverage a broader range of talents and experiences to drive creativity and problem-solving.

Examples of Agency in DEI:

  1. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Many companies establish ERGs to provide a platform for employees from diverse backgrounds to come together, share experiences, and advocate for change. Through ERGs, employees exercise agency by initiating conversations about workplace inclusion, proposing policies, and organising events to celebrate diversity.
  2. Community Advocacy: In the community, agency manifests through grassroots movements and advocacy efforts. For instance, LGBTQ+ activists may mobilise to promote inclusive policies, challenge discrimination, and create safe spaces for their community members. This collective agency drives social change and fosters greater acceptance and equality.


In the journey toward building inclusive environments, fostering agency is paramount. By empowering individuals to exercise autonomy, advocate for their rights, and contribute meaningfully, organisations and communities can advance the principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Recognising and valuing agency not only promotes fairness and respect but also cultivates a culture of belonging where everyone can thrive.


Schlosser, M. (2015). Agency.

Emirbayer, M., & Mische, A. (1998). What is agency?. American journal of sociology103(4), 962-1023.

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