Imagine you are designing the world’s first race track, and we want everyone to have an equal chance of winning. To make it fair.
At first glance, it makes sense to have the racers start side by side in the same place considering they will end in the same place, right?
However, having everyone start at the same place doesn’t take into account the longer distance the runner on the outside of the track will have to run.
In order to be fair, racers are proportionately staggered at their starting points.
This is equity.
The key difference between equity and equality is how they frame fairness.
In equality, fairness is defined as treating everyone equally. Everyone gets the same opportunities. Everyone has access to the same resources.
In equity, fairness is dependent on social and historical context. Equity takes the context of a situation into account before determining what is fair and equal.
Everyone has different advantages - and disadvantages - at work
Let's take this a step further and consider minorities.
Historically, minority groups have had a longer race to run.
Consider underfunded schools in minority neighborhoods disadvantaging those who are trying to get an education.
Consider the higher arrest and conviction rates within those communities that then damages future prospects in schooling and employment.
With this in mind, consider how difficult it would be as a minority person to get a job when the decision is potentially based on your disadvantaged education and public record.
Also take into account that you're dealing with a level of implicit bias toward your community that exists in all of us, including hiring managers and leaders throughout organizations.
Now, none of these are necessarily universal experiences for minorities, but together they paint a picture I would not call a testament to fairness and equality.
So, how do we create and maintain an equitable environment in our organizations, teams, and leadership?
Model Equity in Your Organization
The first step is assessing our hiring practices as we work toward building a more diverse and inclusive work environment.
According to an article written by Forbes Council Member, Jim Link, attracting diverse talent is usually accompanied by the kind of diversity you can quantify such as different ethnic backgrounds, genders, and ages at all levels within an organization.
Building a more diverse work environment provides many advantages.
Studies have shown that a diverse workforce increases creativity, productivity, performance, and global impact.
Research also shows that by building a diverse workforce organizations increase their talent pool, lower their turnover rates, and capture a greater share of the consumer market.
As we build diversity into our organizations we need to ensure that internal practices such as hiring, promotions, and opportunities are also well distributed.
Model Equity in Your Team
The second step is creating a culture of inclusion through building a psychologically safe work environment.
Employees need to feel empowered to bring their unique thoughts and ideas to the table.
As a leader, you need to encourage your team to share their contributions and make employees feel valued with positive reinforcement and clear outcomes.
Also, look into other ways to build equity within your team such as providing learning and development opportunities and opportunities for growth and promotion.
Model Equity in Your Leadership
The third step is acknowledging the context of each person's experience, including your own.
To be equitable a leader must first be empathetic.
The best thing you can do to create equity in your team is to educate yourself and communicate with your team members.
Only through taking responsibility for how we are part of the problem by educating ourselves on racism and prejudice can we then be part of the solution.
Good leaders model the way and show others what is possible through an open perspective.
As you begin to take responsibility and share vulnerably with your team, remember to work on building relationships where you understand and empathize with each other's backgrounds.
Partner with your team as you work to make your organization more equitable.
We Need More Equity, Not Equality