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Equity vs Equality: Is it different?

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Equity and Equality – two words that sound similar, are frequently confused with each other but mean different things.

Simply put, equality refers to giving every individual the same opportunities and access to the same resources.

However, equity goes a step (several steps actually) further to address the obstacles faced by an individual or a group may on their way to an outcome.

That means, in some situations, the most equitable thing to do is to give certain individuals or groups additional support and access to opportunities.

When you run a workplace, or you are responsible for human resources, whether you hold a perspective of equity or equality can make all the difference for under-represented people.

Here are 3 workplace examples to illustrate how following equitable practices can allow marginalized employees access to the same opportunities and outcomes as everyone else.

CASE ONE: The HR manager is designing the benefits plan for employees in a company.

Equality – The plan carries standard medical, dental and vision insurance for everyone. A bereavement policy allows employees paid leave in the event of the death of an immediate family member.

Equity – Before the plan is finalized, the manager sends out a survey to all employees to collect their insights. They realize that an employee needed bereavement leave after suffering a miscarriage or how grieving rituals are different in their culture. The manager then designs the benefits plan that can accommodate a wider range of needs.

CASE TWO: A company asks the hiring manager to ensure a more diverse team.

Equality - The hiring manager screens potential hires’ resumes after hiding their names, educational institution, and gender.

Equity - The hiring manager recognizes the barriers that are preventing Black and Latino/Latina/Latinx employees from thriving in the workplace. She works with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team to identify and understand the obstacles experienced by underrepresented employees. She also drives diversity hiring programs and tracks hiring and retention demographics.

CASE THREE: The HR manager receives a complaint about racial discrimination.

Equality - The manager issues a notice about their zero-tolerance policy on harassment and discrimination. An investigation is carried out and the parties involved are addressed accordingly.

Equity - The manager realizes that the policy and fear of consequences may not be enough to resolve the issue. In addition to investigating and following the standard escalation protocol for the complaint, the team works to advocate for and implement inclusive processes, employee policies, and long-term diversity, equity and inclusion programs, including company or manager-wide targeted solutions for any recurring issues.

Ensuring equity in the workplace is a long-term mission. Consider how you can work towards equitable practices wherever you are.

If you want to sensitize your employees and teams towards the equity perspective, or simply organize a moderated conversation around the subject, request Diversity and Inclusion speaker, Monique Y. Murphy, in New York to talk to them and impart wisdom with the honesty, warmth, and transparency of a trusted friend.

Monique is the award-winning author of Home For Hurricanes, and a passionate Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) speaker and Leader in New York. She speaks about diversity, equity & inclusion, career, and resilience, customizing the content and experience to meet the desired outcomes of her clients.

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