Equity vs Equality: Shaping the Future of Workplaces

diversity portrait and students coworking

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action models at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, a critical conversation has been reignited: the difference between equality and equity. This distinction, often misunderstood, is fundamental to shaping the future of not just workplaces but our communities at large.

Understanding Equality and Equity

Equality and equity, while seemingly similar, are fundamentally different. Equality is about giving everyone the same resources or opportunities. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t consider individual needs or circumstances. On the other hand, equity involves distributing resources based on the needs of the recipients. It’s about fairness, ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

In terms of equality in the workplace, an example that can be used is that there is a job posting for a position that is available to internal and external candidates. The equality of this opportunity is that the application is set up for those with disabilities to be able to easily apply, that underrepresented groups within the organization are set up for consideration, support, and success in applying for the posting and that there is fair and equitable pay based on the role and responsibility not just the candidate.

The Fallacy of the Starting Line

The recent court ruling suggests that we are all racing from the same starting line, a notion that is fundamentally flawed due to systemic inequities ingrained in our society. This perspective echoes the outdated and harmful mentality of “separate but equal”, a concept that historically perpetuated racial segregation and inequality.

According to a 2021 article in Health Affairs, “Systemic racism is so embedded in systems that it often is assumed to reflect the natural, inevitable order of things.” (Unknown, 2021) This is why when it’s called out, addressed, and pushed back against the retort is that it does not exist because it has been normalized as just the way that things are.

The Role of Workplaces in Promoting Equity

Workplaces are microcosms of society, and they are not immune to these systemic inequities. The idea that employees of different races, genders, or backgrounds have an equal opportunity to access the same level of resources, promotions, and career opportunities is a fallacy. It overlooks the long-lasting legacy of systemic biases that have shaped our society and workplaces.

There cannot be a separation from governing policies, systemic inequities and the workplace as the workplace is influenced by governing polices and the world at large. People would love to separate politics and systemic inequities from the workplace but unfortunately this cannot be done as it is all interconnected. The people who for, lead, and buy from organizations are heavily influenced and affected by society and those experiences and influences inevitably affect equity or inequity in the workplace.  

Equity in Action: Beyond Tokenism

Promoting equity in the workplace goes beyond tokenism or diversity quotas. It involves acknowledging and addressing the unique challenges faced by marginalized groups. It’s about creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their background, has the tools and opportunities they need to succeed.

While this may seem uncomfortable and possibly polarizing, not being a proponent of equity creates the same result for those that are experiencing systemic inequity. The decision must be made whether comfort and perpetuating what has been versus creating and sustaining equity.

The Path Forward: Building Equitable Workplaces

Building equitable workplaces requires a conscious and continual effort to understand and address systemic inequities. It involves creating policies and practices that ensure fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all employees. It’s about recognizing the value of diversity and inclusion and leveraging it to drive innovation and growth.

In conclusion, the fight for equity in the workplace is far from over. The recent court ruling serves as a stark reminder of this fact. However, it also presents an opportunity for us to reevaluate our understanding of equality and equity, and to strive for a more equitable future. After all, equity, not just equality, is the key to a fair and just society.

When you are ready to foster the change and create the equity workplace that positively impacts employees and organizations Contact Us today.

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