Equity and equality are the cornerstones of a workplace that champions inclusion and excellence in diversity. As our world becomes more connected, opportunities to work with clients from all walks of life opens the door to new conversations about retaining diverse talent and fostering an inclusive environment.But you may be surprised to learn that equity and equality, while related, are not exactly the same thing.Many organizations have different concepts in mind when envisioning an inclusive workplace, and these ideas can influence the hiring process, work environment, and future outcomes for their team. How a company culture embodies equity and equality determines the level of support employees from diverse backgrounds feel from leadership.An equitable environment and equality in the workplace are possible to achieve through remaining vigilant against biases and starting conversations about inclusion with your team. In this blog post, we’ll be walking through the importance of equality and equity in the workplace, how they differ, and steps towards making equality and equity a core focus for creating a level playing field for all employees.
What is equality?
Equality in the workplace refers to the fair treatment of all employees, regardless of their differences such as differences in race, gender identity, or sexual orientation. In essence, equal rights are provided no matter what. Workplace equality involves providing the same amount of equal benefits, same opportunities, and same resources to everyone within the organization, ensuring an equal playing field where all employees are provided the same opportunities for growth and success.While workplace equality is a fundamental principle of inclusion initiatives, a one-size-fits-all approach may not address the unique needs and challenges that individuals from diverse backgrounds may face. The principle of workplace equality is a cornerstone of an effective and inclusive company, but a strictly uniform approach can present certain challenges in the workplace.Treating everyone exactly the same might not address the diverse needs and circumstances of employees. Team members come with unique strengths, different backgrounds, challenges, and perspectives that might require specific support and recognition.Some issues in providing equal treatment may need to be a addressed on an employee specific level, where leadership takes the time to speak with their team members to better target a desired outcome.A blanket application of policies may inadvertently perpetuate existing disparities, especially for those who face additional barriers due to historical or systemic factors as underrepresented groups. That’s why it is important to talk about equity.
What is equity?
Equity in the workplace involves recognizing and addressing the diverse needs of individuals from unique backgrounds to ensure fairness.Unlike a strictly equal approach, equity acknowledges that not everyone starts from the same place and recognizes the importance of providing tailored support. An equitable approach means that individuals facing additional challenges due to factors like socio-economic background, disability, or systemic inequalities receive the specific assistance they need to thrive in the workplace.Employees feel valued when their voices are heard, which is why in an effort to champion equity effectively, we must be willing to foster inclusive communication from all members of the team on a consistent basis. Equity acknowledges that historical and systemic factors have created disparities in opportunities and outcomes. By actively working to eliminate these disparities, organizations can foster an inclusive culture that appreciates and leverages the unique strengths and perspectives of each employee.Workplace equity begins to improve when those specific needs and obstacles based on race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disabilities are identified. They may be hidden in the recruitment process, hiring practices, or more broadly throughout the company culture.
How do we create a more equitable workplace?
Workplace equity is, in essence, a strategic imperative for creating an environment where all employees feel heard, are offered opportunities on the basis of equality, and are supported through equitable access to resources. While further education for leadership is recommended, equitable practices must be implemented even earlier.This is to say that one of the critical opportunities for fostering equity in the workplace is during the hiring process. However, a hiring manager should not simply hire a diverse talent on the basis of their being diverse and then consider the issue solved. This only exacerbates the problem.Instead, companies need to reappraise their current hiring practices to not only ensure they are attracting talent from all walks of life, but also that their company culture offers continued support to these individuals after they are hired. For example:
Ask yourself how your company is taking steps to retain these individuals.
Look at current internal policies and procedures, and identify areas where further support can be offered for these individuals.
Assess if your company has already taken steps to improve equity and develop an inclusive environment offering equal opportunity for all.
Identify if any workplace procedures or policies unduly subject certain individuals to unconscious biases, such as a lack of a remote work option for individuals with children, or aspects of employee evaluations that may contain gender bias.
Inclusion efforts are exactly that — an effort. There is no particular quick fix for solving disparity and strengthening equity in the workplace, but by asking the hard questions such as “am I doing enough to attract diverse talent, retain them, and provide employees with support in an equitable manner” gives us a foundation for growth.This growth then allows us to develop an action plan for solving this disparity in a targeted, strategic manner.
1. Gather the data
To get an objective viewpoint of where we’re starting, it is critical to gather demographic data that measure equity, that actively describe the backgrounds of our employees. It involves taking a deep dive and going over previous hiring documents, or conducting annual surveys that gather data describing an individual’s ethnicity and race, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.These are typically obtained during an onboarding process, though employees should be at liberty to refuse to disclose any particular information that is not necessary for hiring.And above all, sensitive information that the employee chooses to share such as any childcare obligations, existing financial hardships or mental health conditions should never be disclosed to a third party without permission, or used as a basis for not hiring someone.
2. Measure diversity among leadership
Beyond ensuring we are attracting stellar diverse talent, we should be mindful that team members in a leadership position are representative of an inclusive environment, broadly.If employees see that leadership is only occupied by a homogenous demographic, they may not feel represented, supported, or may not be assured that their managers understand their unique backgrounds or characteristics
3. Make space for everyone
Actively listen to feedback from employees, and gain a deeper understanding of their needs. Workplace equity is only possible if we consider every team member and their unique challenges. For example, are there any policies that some employees feel are biased towards them, or any language barriers in hiring and recruitment materials?Afterwards, we can come up with solutions to address and accommodate those needs such as through mentorship, further training, or implementing policies that support employees’ unique situations.
Equity and equality go hand in hand. Workplace equity and workplace quality are proactive commitments to identifying a rectifying imbalances, such that employees feel they are receiving the same treatment, and investing in a viable career path with your company.By having conversations about equity vs equality in the workplace, we propel our workplace culture further through retaining exemplary talent from different backgrounds, eliminate any existing unconscious bias, and shining a light on other factors that have escaped our view.By embracing equity, organizations can create a workplace where diversity is not just welcomed but actively nurtured, and where every employee has the support and resources they need to reach their full potential.
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