The original goal of workplace sensitivity training was to make a more equal environment. While equality is still important, the goal has shifted, and more companies and their leaders are focused on equity. However, not everyone is aware of the differences between these terms. To help clarify, this article will review the differences between workplace equity and equality, as well as some examples to further clarify the concept.
What Is Equality?
In the workplace, equality means treating everyone the same and giving them the same opportunities. Every person in an equal workplace receives the same treatment, is held to the same standards, and must follow the same rules. Overall, this is to better ensure that every worker has access to equal resources and has a shot at the same opportunities.
To illustrate, an equal workplace gives everyone the same holidays and allotted time off. We know that everyone needs time off, and everyone deserves the same amount. But is this the best answer for everyone?
What Is Equity?
Equity, while also focused on giving people the same resources and opportunities, functions a little differently. Workplaces that practice equity understand that fish cannot fly no matter how many feathers you put on them. In other words, some people need specific accommodations to be able to obtain the same resources as others.
If everyone has the same days off, but some do not observe the same holidays, should the people who do not observe those holidays take extra time off to have the same privilege as others? It’s understandable that, while this practice is equal, it’s not fair to everyone and could be seen as employment discrimination: a serious yet unfortunately common civil rights violation. A better way to go about this is to give everyone the same number of days off but allow the individual to decide when they take holidays and PTO.
What Are the Differences Between the Two?
It is important to note that just because equity accommodates more people, that does not make equality obsolete; equality is the critical stepping stone that leads to equity. But the differences between the two are vast and important.
If you had an employee that was visually impaired or blind, would you give them the same keyboard as everyone else? You wouldn’t. This would be unfair, but it would still be considered equality. But providing them with braille keycaps or keycaps for those with low vision is equity.
Knowing the differences between equity versus equality is critical for companies looking to create a more inclusive and diverse space that is safe for everyone. If you’re ever unsure how to treat someone equitably and provide them with what they need, it never hurts to ask. You could make a huge difference in their life.