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Why Diversity Matters: How Equality Is Different from Equity

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Why_Diversity_Matters_How_Equality_Is_Different_from_Equity.jpgThere are many advantages to employing a diverse team in your business. Although diversity is a positive thing for any business, it’s easy to stumble when it comes to implementing effective plans to support it. One of the most common stumbling blocks is conflating equality and equity.

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Equality Talk

Equality is a good goal. It means treating everyone the same or, at the very least, in a similar way. An example might be giving women’s meeting contributions equal weight or allowing them to have the floor for an equal amount of time as men.

It could also mean equal pay. People working the same job should be paid the same wage. If you have two junior marketing managers, their wages should be the same or very closely matched.


Where Equality Fails

The biggest stumbling block facing the idea of equality right now is the fact that people aren’t treated as equals. Women often have to work harder than their male counterparts to secure promotions. They’re often paid less, even for equal work. The same is true of people who belong to other groups. Religious differences, different ethnic backgrounds, and even age can influence how someone is treated in the workplace.

Equality suggests wiping the slate clean and treating everyone the same. At the end of the day, however, the situation remains unequal due to a combination of factors. People from diverse groups don’t start on equal footing. They may not have had the same educational opportunities. They may have been relegated to roles beneath their qualifications.

In this sense, saying “everyone is equal” isn’t enough to truly support diversity in the workplace. Although it’s a lovely notion, the truth is the playing field is still very uneven.


The Notion of Equity

Equity stands in contrast to equality. Whereas equality erases differences, equity seeks to address these differences. It does so through differential treatment. You might think of golf players who begin their game with a handicap. The handicap levels the playing field so everyone can participate, no matter their ability.

At this point in time, differential treatment in the workplace is actually somewhat necessary. The uneven playing field gives some people advantages while disadvantaging others.

Equity introduces the idea of treating people according to their needs and circumstances. For example, equal opportunity would allow anyone and everyone to sign up for a managerial course. An equity opportunity would encourage groups who are traditionally underrepresented in management to take the course and “catch up” with their peers.


Isn’t Equity Unfair?

Some people believe equity is unfair. They may feel equity policies designed to support one group over another unfairly disadvantage them.

In some senses, equity can be unfair. However, these policies aren’t aimed at individuals. Instead, they’re aimed at overcoming historic and systemic barriers that have held back entire groups. An equity policy doesn’t put every single woman into a managerial position. An equity policy provides supports so more women can have the opportunities to pursue their goals to become managers.


Both Are Necessary

Equity and equality should be employed together. Encouraging people of all backgrounds to value each other and treat each other as equals is just good business sense. Every team member is an important player in your business.

Equity policies are meant to support those who may not otherwise be able to truly claim “equal” status. They’re meant to break down barriers in business you may not even realize exist. Overcoming these barriers is an important step on the road to true equality in your workplace.

Understanding both equality and equity and how they should apply to diversity in the workplace is the first step in making your diversity policy a success. Learn more about how they can support your policies and make your business an even better environment for all of your employees.


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Debbie Russell

Debbie Russell

Debbie is the assistant vice president in the Calgary office of GroupQuest Benefits Resources Inc., partnering with Group Insurance Advisors to support and help grow their employee benefits businesses. Debbie has over 30 years’ experience in the insurance industry. She understands building relationships is what drives this business. She holds the Certified Health Insurance Specialist (CHS) and Group Benefits Associate (GBA) designations and is a member of Advocis. On a more personal note, Debbie enjoys good food, good wine, and having a good time with family and friends. She loves golfing, camping, hiking and travelling.

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