What’s the Difference Between Equity and Equality?

Why Equity AND Equality Matter in Your Company and Ways to Enhance Both

#EmbraceEquity represents the focus of the 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) campaign. Equity isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have, in every aspect of society. For this to happen we
should first understand the difference between equity and equality.

Equality and equity with a woman standing at ladder with rungs too far apart. Man stands at ladder with evenly spaced rungs easy to climb
Equity and equality are two highly related, but distinctly different concepts important for
creating a fair and inclusive workplace.

Equality speaks to treating everyone the same, regardless of their background or circumstances. For instance, in the workplace, employees may be provided with equal opportunities, resources and support to succeed. This could be in training opportunities, the same benefits and be held to the same performance standards. Equal pay for equal work has long (too long) been a quest for women seeking the same pay for similar levels of work.

Equity, on the other hand, recognizes that all employees don’t start from the same place, and some may require additional support or resources to achieve equal outcomes. Equity aims to create a level playing field by addressing systemic barriers by providing targeted support to those who may have been historically disadvantaged or marginalized. In the workplace, a company might provide additional mentoring or training opportunities to employees from underrepresented groups or establish programs to support employees with disabilities or caregiving responsibilities.

Equality and equity in a visual image. Three people, a dad, mom and child. Dad is tallest, mom is second tallest, child is shortest. Dad can comfortable see over fence, mom can see, but barely, child cannot see. Equity-the dad loses a stool, the mom has a stool and the child has two stools so that they can all see over the fence with the same vantage point
Equality and Equity Concept Illustration. Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Respective Needs. Modern Design Vector Illustration

In short, while equality focuses on treating everyone the same, equity recognizes that people
have different needs and aims to provide targeted support to create a more level playing field.
In the workplace, both are needed to create a fair and inclusive environment.

Now what? Beyond the definitions, here are a few examples of how to promote greater equity in your organization:

  1. Diversify your workforce: Intentionally recruit, hire and promote employees from diverse backgrounds. This may involve expanding your recruitment efforts to each underrepresented groups, using blind screening processes and creating inclusive job descriptions that don’t have gender or racial biases. Matching the job duties to behavioral profiles not only helps hire the right person, but it also removes bias from the process.

Sign up for a free trial of the PI Hire 2.0 hiring solution to take the guesswork and bias out of hiring!

2. Recognize different work styles, motivations and needs: Just as your children may have wildly different personalities and needs, the same is true of your employees. Use personality style tools to understand their preferences, interaction styles and how to coach them to bring their best to work. Do they want time for reflection or interaction? Who likes collaborating vs. taking charge? The person who thrives on flexibility is not going to want to be confined by stringent rules. (Give it a try with a free behavioral assessment.)

3. Provide training and development: Provide education on topics such as unconscious bias (yes, we all have this), cultural competency and inclusive leadership to help leaders and employees understand and address their own biases and find ways to promote a more inclusive workplace. Other training on business, technical or communication areas may help employees develop their skills and advance their careers.

4. Offer flexible work arrangements: Remote and hybrid work, flexible schedules and job sharing can help employees balance their work and personal responsibilities. This can be especially helpful for those with caregiving responsibilities, disabilities or other needs requiring accommodation. It’s also a great way to attract and retain employees in this new world of work in the post-covid era, regardless of personal situation.

5. Establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): ERGs are employee-led groups that provide a space or employees with shared backgrounds or interests to connect and support one another, and advocate for change within the organization. ERGs can help promote a sense of belonging and inclusion for those who may otherwise feel isolated or marginalized. I recently led the offsite for the leadership team of a large ERG for Mental Health and Wellbeing for a global organization. Others could be for women, people of color, nationalities, LGBTQ, disabilities, wellbeing, working parents, etc.

6. Conduct regular audits for pay and benefits: Regularly review your compensation practices to ensure employees are paid fairly and equitably for their work. Go beyond job titles to consider similar complexity and importance of the job as roles may attract more people of a certain gender. Also look at your benefit plans to offer a variety of alternatives. Tuition assistance, English as a second language, child care, elder care, EAPs and various wellbeing benefits could be part of the menu of offerings.

These are just a few examples of how leaders can #EmbraceEquity in the workplace. It’s an
ongoing process that starts with awareness and requires commitment, investment and
continuous evaluation and improvement. Not sure where to start? Ask your employees. Or
contact us to learn more.

Other Resources and Articles on International Women’s Day to embrace all year long:

1. International Women’s Day Website
Share your #EmbraceEquity image, video, resources, presentation, and articles across
social media using #IWD2023 #EmbraceEquity to encourage others to help forge an
inclusive world.
2. International Women’s Day: How do we embrace equity in today’s technology sector? Forbes, March 1, 2023.
3. Employee Resource Groups: Your Complete Guide. Indeed