I had a CEO of an organization tell me that their company was doing well with Diversity and Inclusion because their staff was 30% minority and 40% women. I commended him for his efforts but told him they still needed to do better. I then asked him how many of those minorities were in senior management positions. Basically how many were in leadership positions? He thought about this for a moment and then asked why that matters? I then asked him if he knew the difference between inclusion, equality, and equity?
So that’s what I wanted to talk to the community about in this post. What is equity and why we need to include it in our discussions.
What is Equity?
Equity is the quality of being fair and impartial: “Equity of treatment.”
Synonyms of equity include fairness, justness, impartiality, egalitarianism, objectivity, and balance.
If the profile of your senior level staff is not reflective of the diversity of your internal staff, you aren’t providing equity within your organization. If your staff are not diverse in the first place, then take the first step to educate yourself as to why this is important.
Making sure everyone has equal access to resources and advancement within an organization is an important goal. Everyone should have the resources and opportunity necessary to progress professionally. But the truth remains that people of color are not afforded the same advancement opportunities and require more to reach positions of leadership.
How to Achieve Equity
Here’s where equity comes in. The employees of color require more resources like training and mentorship to catch up, succeed, and eventually, close the gap. Simply giving employees of color the same level of resources as whites will not close the gap. But making sure that your employees of color have access to exceptional sponsors, mentors, and opportunities will help move us toward the goal of narrowing the opportunity gap.
Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same kind and amount of help. Equity may appear unfair, but it actively moves everyone closer to success by “leveling the playing field.”
The problem is that not everyone starts at the same place, and not everyone has the same needs. There are privileges that whites have, whether they want to admit it or not. Overcoming privilege means identifying what equality is and then what is more; EQUITY. Equity essentially promotes fairness that takes into account cultural and social expectations. It’s the difference between treating everyone the same versus treating everyone appropriately to raise them to the same possibility of achievement.
Stages Towards Achieving Equity
The stages towards equity in institutions that dismantle systemic privilege are equity of access, equity of opportunity, and equity of outcome.
Equity of access means that regardless of background, circumstance, etc., all individuals and groups have access to a specific privilege.
Equity of opportunity means that all individuals and groups have access to opportunities that are tied to this privilege.
Equity of outcome means regardless of background, circumstance, etc., all individuals and groups have equal outcomes as the privileged group.
Members of privileged groups may feel that they’ll lose their seat at the figurative table if they start promoting equity within their organization. This is not necessarily the case, in most situations, you’ll just be making room at the table for people who never would have a chance otherwise.
How to Ensure Equity
What can you do to ensure equity is within your organization’s culture? I’ve three suggestions:
- Lobby senior management to start the discussion
- Seek out diverse candidates from within to promote
- Sponsor for a person of color
Hold Your Organization Accountable
One powerful way to ensure organizational progress towards equity is to gather your organization’s diversity data, make that data available and use it to analyze the effectiveness of your equity interventions. Only with data can you hold your organization accountable. With this step, we have a way to prove, on a large scale, that our work towards the public good is happening and that it can be thoughtfully adjusted towards progressively better outcomes.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others? -Martin Luther King Jr.