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Equality vs. Equity at Work

Before 2020, bringing up diversity in the workplace often resulted in hushed tones and nervous employees. Nowadays, those conversations have turned into vital pillars of communication in the workplace. As we move past understanding the role of diversity, the attention turns to inclusion, and tucked within that umbrella is the role of equality vs. equity.

Equality vs. Equity: The Definitions

Before we dive into the application of equality or equity, we need to understand what they are. How does one differentiate equality vs. equity?

Equality means everyone is given the same resources or opportunities, no matter their needs.

Whereas equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. (Source)

As Amelia Ransom stated in HR Technologist, “Equality is providing the same meal full of meat for everybody, knowing that you have vegans and vegetarians in the group…Equity is providing vegan and vegetarian options along with the meat meal so that everybody has something that they can eat. To have equity in your organization, there needs to be an understanding of what each person needs and wants to be successful in the workplace.”

So which is better for your workplace?

While equality has long been standard, equity has highlighted the need to respect employees as individuals with different needs.

How To Support Equity at Work

When you’ve decided to build an equitable workplace, there are a few things you can keep in mind to help guide the process. It’s important to remember (and we’ll reiterate this later) that each situation is different, and your process may look different from your competitor’s, and that’s okay. Build a method that works for your team with your particular resources and goals in mind, and you’re sure to make great strides.

Set Goals

Goal setting is a great way to ensure that your equity plans have the desired outcome. If you don’t know what you want people to do, you won’t know what resources they need to do it.

Goals can be used throughout a DE&I strategy, from the recruiting process to onboarding and training to ongoing employee management and engagement. Set goals for the company, departments, and individual contributors to ensure that everyone knows what they’re working towards.

If you want to take it a step further, build a growing goal plan. People are far more willing to continue down a path if they can celebrate goals along the way. Let’s say you want one of your recruiters to go from doing 3 phone screens a week to doing 25 phone screens a week. Instead of making the goals “Do 25 phone screens a week”, make a plan like:

Do 5 phone screens a week next week.
Get through 10 phone screens a week by two weeks from now.
Complete 15 phone screens a week by three weeks from now.
Do 25 phone screens a week by six weeks from now.

By making goal posts they can reach and giving a timeline to get it done, you’ve built urgency and clear expectations. From here, talk with your recruiters to learn what they may individually need to reach these goals. 

Communicate Clearly and Manage Expectations

Let’s face it: Clear communication and expectations could be a tip on pretty much any list about workplace success. Building an equitable workplace means ensuring that everyone knows what is expected of them and what you can provide.

Communicating clearly from leadership down will foster a culture of transparency that is key to a successful workplace. Clear communication sometimes means sharing bad news or owning up to mistakes. While those moments can be uncomfortable, they lay the groundwork for employees or candidates to communicate their needs throughout the hiring and employment period.

Embrace Personal Needs

To achieve true inclusion and equity, we need to respect that individuals are just that: individual. How can you open the conversation so that people feel welcome and safe enough to share what they need?

It’s easy to say, “Just tell us what you need to be successful, and we’ll help you out!” but many candidates or new employees don’t trust that the intention matches the outreach. So it’s time to walk the walk. If your leadership team is taking time off to attend their kids’ baseball game, share it in Slack! When someone asks for help on something or for a new resource to make their day easier, thank them for being open with you! We have to reinforce these actions to make everyone feel comfortable embracing their own needs and sharing them.

Always Be Open to Learning

The second you pull yourself away from a growth mindset, you will lose steam, and your success will be threatened. So how can you keep learning?

Articles like this one you’re reading are a great starting point. There are also tons of resources out there to help you keep growing and learning.

We recently released a new update to a whitepaper from last year. We realized that while last year’s whitepaper was excellent when it was released, we had seen and learned so much more since then. So we put together a new one!

You can also arrange something like a Development Day at work where employees are encouraged to take time to learn about something they’re interested in. Remember that when we’re faced with topics like equality vs. equity, we have a lot of unlearning to do alongside our learning, but as we grow together, it’s indeed possible to change the work world for the better.

Embrace the Gray

Gone are the days of black and white theories. Equity is built on respecting individuality and understanding personal needs, so we must bring that respect into how we view situations. Oftentimes, there is no distinctly perfect way to apply a theory across all employees, every industry, and every role because we are not a black and white world; we’re a whole lot of gray.

How can you embrace the gray in situations and people? Approach each with the knowledge you carry and empathy and respect for what they bring to the table. Make an effort to understand the context of a situation and dive in with care for individuality and personal needs.

Ultimately, equity is an incredible goal to strive towards, but it often takes time to get it right. It is also a never-ending task. Give yourself and your team the space to learn and grow together with the right goals in mind. Before long, the conversation will transition from “equality vs. equity” to “We’re an equitable workforce. What’s next?”