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Equity vs. Equality Defined

Kanarys Staff


Equity vs. Equality Defined

While the words equality and equity sound similar and are often thought to mean the same thing, there are actually crucial differences between them. Both are pursued as means to fairness, but the implementation of one versus the other can lead to widely divergent results in terms of success in the workplace, especially for employees outside the dominant group. It’s important to understand how and why.

What Does Equality Mean?

Equality means that each individual, regardless of gender, age, race, sex, religion, etc., is provided with the same resources, treatment, and opportunities. It ensures people in different demographic groups aren’t discriminated against. 

Equality is based on the idea that everyone has the same worth and therefore deserves the same treatment. So far, so good. But the concept of equality also assumes that everyone has the same needs and that the same treatment gives them all equal chances of achieving success. If a building has steps and a front and back door, does it give everyone an equal opportunity to enter? Not when some people are wheelchair users.

What Does Equity Mean?

The concept of equity involves leveling the playing field. It recognizes that employees with different circumstances can need different types of support to reach their full potential. Treating everyone the same may not be fair. That building needs a ramp for wheelchair users, too. 

Equity allocates resources according to need with the goal of giving everyone a genuinely equal chance to succeed. 

The Difference Between Equality vs. Equity — An Example

The difference between an equality and an equity approach can be demonstrated through compensation practices. The goal of salary equality is equal pay for equal work. Everyone who does the same job should receive the same pay. This is an admirable goal. However, pay equity digs a little deeper. 

Pay equity looks at overall pay gaps between groups and the potential reasons for these. For example, in a company in which men earn substantially more than women on average, the reason may be that there are more men in high-paying positions and more women in low-paying positions. But why is that? Are there factors that are keeping women from moving into higher-paying jobs? Or have some jobs been valued more and rewarded more because they were historically performed by men? Once the issues are clarified, steps can be taken to address them and provide fair opportunities for employees of all genders to earn what they deserve.

The Benefits of Equity

Clearly, equity is a much more complex approach to implement in an organization than equality. However, the benefits to employees and organizations are significant. 

Many workplace practices are based on implicit norms or standards established by specific demographics. They’ve been accepted for so long that it’s difficult to see the discriminatory practices and beliefs involved. However, this “unconscious bias” still pervades most social institutions and business organizations, at least to some extent today. That’s why providing the same type and number of resources to everyone can be counterproductive to real fairness. 

It’s important to understand that equity doesn’t mean favoring one group over another. It means offering all of your employees the best opportunities to reach their potential. It means tailoring resources to their unique needs. A company that makes everyone feel they have a real chance to be their best is more likely to get the best out of every member of their workforce. This translates to boosts in productivity, innovation, attraction, and retention of high-level talent and ultimately company revenue and profits. 

Kanarys is Your DEI Champion

At Kanarys, we are the diversity, equity, and inclusion people with the data-driven approach. Since 2018, Kanarys has aimed to change the world by creating equitable workplaces where everyone belongs. We guide your organization’s DEI path every step of the way with courage and collaboration. It starts with data, analytics and insights, and continues with recommendations and implementation. 

Our mission, as your partner and champion in the ever-evolving DEI journey: Help you understand what it takes to foster lasting, systemic change today and for tomorrow. Because when you succeed with DEI, your employees can thrive—and so can your organization.

    Overall Benefits & Policies
    Gender Equity/Diversity
    Racial Equity/Diversity
    Religious Freedom & Equity

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