At InclusionINC, over the two decades that we have been working for Fortune 500 companies, we have explicitly focused very heavily on the promotion of diversity and inclusion, or “D&I.” Inclusion is, of course, right there in the name of the company, and we feel so strongly about the primary importance of inclusion that you may often see and hear us put the “I” for inclusion first and foremost, as in “I&D.”
But there’s another letter, for another important concept, that has come into play in recent months in conjunction with D&I. That’s “E” for equity, and the abbreviation “DEI” is used very often as well. But what does that E for equity really mean? And why is it used sometimes and not others?
The Meaning of Equity
First and foremost, it’s important to point out that equity does not mean the same thing as equality. Equality essentially means everyone is treated the same, regardless of race, sex, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, etc. That sounds like a worthwhile standard at first glance; however, advocates of equity point out that not everyone starts life, let alone a career, with the same advantages. Treating someone from a privileged background the same as someone who may have grown up in poverty, who has faced discrimination or who has not had access to quality education may represent equal treatment, but that equal treatment is unlikely to result in equitable outcomes.
Equity seeks to provide equal opportunities as opposed to equal treatment. Achieving equal opportunity may mean hiring focused primarily on skills, instead of education, because some individuals from less-privileged backgrounds may not have the same access to education as others. Or it might mean providing mentorship and additional training opportunities to those born outside the United States and who have brought up without the benefit of immersion in the local culture.
Equity therefore has equality in mind, but recognizes that before equal treatment can result in equal opportunity, everyone needs to be at more or less the same starting point. This means some people and groups might need additional support or resources to get to that starting point.
Why Is Equity Sometimes Left Out of the Conversation?
We certainly can’t speak for everyone; however, our own take on the inclusion of equity might help inform the answer to this question. At InclusionINC, we are absolutely on board with the concept of equity and its addition to the I&D equation. However, we also believe that this addition serves to add further confusion to what is already a very misunderstood field. So, at InclusionINC we’ve reframed the conversation. Equity, we believe, is the outcome of I&D work.
Equity is ensuring that everyone in their unique difference has what they need to be successful. This means providing resources and access to those who need them with the ultimate goal of balancing unfair access to opportunities within the organization.
Equity, again, is the outcome. And, we would add, equity is made possible through inclusion.