In light of immigration (compulsory and non-compulsory), demographic changes, and globalization, diversity has become a seminal issue for educators. Diversity is often tied to concepts of equity, inclusion, and social justice. It is viewed by most as a positive construct that holds academic and social developmental benefits for students as well as promise of better interracial and intercultural relationships. Diversity is both an empirical concept that documents individual characteristics (i.e.: race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age, socioeconomic status, religious/spiritual affiliation, personality type, learning style, level of education, etc.) as well as a normative concept that informs how students, parents, and educators view themselves and are viewed and treated by others from the dominant group. Historically, diversity in US schools has gone through different phases, from the melting-pot and assimilation to awareness of students’ cultural contexts, racial integration, including minority perspective and voice, multicultural education, cultural pluralism and respect for differences, to a more neoliberal individualized focus. Throughout these phases, diversity remained riddled with competing dichotomies (i.e.: assimilation verses integration or multiculturalism; individual verses group focus; redistribution verses recognition; deficit based verses asset based approach, good diversity verses bad diversity; and last but not least diversity of schools verses diversity within schools), all of which sometimes resulted in pendulum-swing like progression.

Leaders of diverse schools are constrained by a homogenized and exclusive leadership model, which focuses on what the leaders do, and could be measured, versus who they are. As a result, leaders rarely devote time or effort towards understanding diversity issues and their own positions on race, gender or ethnicity as well as how they situate themselves as individuals and leaders within their schools and social contexts. Intersectionality is one theoretical approach that helps educational leaders understand diversity at a deeper level, by taking into account how different categories that describe an individual intersect together, as well as with other environmental and sociopolitical factors, to shed light on the experiences of culturally diverse groups. Intersectionality extends the discourse of diversity through emphasizing cultural group experiences and highlighting oppressions within dominant social structures. This encompassing understanding of diversity is imperative for the development of an inclusive school culture that is free of bias, stereotyping, and othering and which appreciates differences and cultivates the cultural wealth of diverse students and their families. Multiple approaches to leading diverse schools include: culturally relevant pedagogy, multicultural education, culturally responsive instruction, culturally responsive leadership, culturally competent leadership, and culturally proficient school leadership.