Equity vs Equality: What’s The Difference And Why Does It Matter?

Thankfully, as events in our society have forced Corporate America (and our nation as a whole) to more closely examine its collective diversity and inclusion efforts, companies across the country have tried to implement new measures to make their workplaces more tolerant and culturally sensitive environments. This increase in awareness is, of course, a good thing. But while businesses large and small set out towards these noble objectives, it is important that they know exactly what it is they are fighting for.

Equity and Equality are not the same. And while both terms have similar definitions, the way they are understood and ultimately implemented into any organization could lead to drastically different results. Let’s take a look at what each of these principles mean, and how they can, and should, be incorporated into any business or workplace.

Equity vs. Equality: What’s The Difference?

The difference between equity and equality is inherent, and yet often goes unconsidered or misunderstood. Equality is the state of being equal; equity is the quality of being fair or impartial. These descriptions may sound synonymous to many, but they are not. As any parent with multiple children knows, what is fair and what is equal or often not the same thing.

Essentially equality is about giving an individual or a group the exact same resources or opportunities, while equity takes into account each person’s unique circumstances and allocates the resources or opportunities as needed to give everyone the same chance of reaching a desired outcome. In a model emphasizing equality, every student gets the same amount of time to take a standardized test. In one focused around equity, students with learning challenges are given extra time to better ensure that they can fully comprehend the material.

Equity AND Equality: Why They’re Both Important

As a more objective ideal, equality is often an easier concept to both understand and incorporate. Installing true equity however, while certainly a more subjective undertaking, is perhaps an even more crucial aim for any business or workplace. In the best case scenario, stressing equity in your employee hiring, training, and development processes, will lead to great equality when it comes to the makeup of your senior staff and corporate leadership.

Basically equality, whether that be in the makeup of your board, the composition of your corporate executives, or any other measure, is what you should strive for as a result of your diversity and inclusion efforts. But reinforcing equity in those efforts is the only way to get there. Without understanding and addressing the needs of all your employees, especially those from underrepresented groups that have been historically marginalized, you’ll never give any of them a fair chance at rising up the ladder and succeeding in your organization.

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