To highlight International Women’s Day this year, we will be looking into the theme for 2023; equality vs equity. What does this phrase mean for businesses, and why it is important for us to know the differences between the two? 

In political terms, equality is one of the foundations of democracy. Equality is based on the belief that all people should have the same opportunities for a happy life – it is linked to the idea that success is based on personal efforts and not social status. 

The goal of equity is to change systemic and structural barriers that get in the way of people’s ability to thrive. However, ongoing conversation highlights whether equality is enough, and if instead we should look towards equity as a better principle to progress society. 

The concept of ‘fairness’ can get tricky as it’s often assumed that ‘being fair’ means that everybody gets the same thing. We are often taught this as we grow up, but ‘fairness’ only works when we’re all the same to start out with. In business terms this would be the equivalent of interviewing an equal number of male and female candidates rather than committing to hiring those women candidates and thinking that was being fair and equal. 

Inequity affects many people, but most commonly historically it has impacted marginalized communities such as women, people of colour, disabled people, the economically disadvantaged, and those from the LGBTQ+ community. 

How can we ensure that we make our business spaces more equitable?  We all carry bias that impacts our decisions, mindsets, and behaviours. Equity recognizes this truth and refers to the distribution or allocation of resources and opportunities to help create a more level playing field. There are several steps your business can take to achieve this goal: 

Make sure you create a space with diversity in mind. Take time to measure how equitable your workplace currently is. Diversity should not be a second hand thought or something that can wait until later to implement into your business. Your space should support every kind of worker and every kind of work that your team need to do.  

Ensure that the workplace is more equitable by disclosing wage data. Provide pay transparency in job applications and to your workforce, which has been shown to close the gender and racial pay gap. Sharing equity targets and progress is another step businesses can take to reach equity of pay. For example, if the company is mostly male dominated, it might pledge to hire a certain percentage more women in the coming year.  

Have you thought about updating your hiring practices? Try to promote job opportunities in inclusive spaces. Look at where new job positions are placed and whether those channels could be attracting a particular type of applicant. Once a company recognizes this, it will be easier to branch out and seek new workers through previously ignored connections or avenues.   

Another step in the right direction is to accommodate health conditions and disabilities. Some employees require a more specialised work environment that would enable them to thrive. Offering support like neurodivergent coaching can help other members of staff know how to effectively accommodate colleagues.  

And last but not least; promote inclusive leadership. We all know the famous saying that change starts from the top. It is important to understand that your leaders and leadership team matter very much in the overall influence over the success of your equity policies. Building inclusive leadership skills within your team will allow your workforce to unlock their full potential.