There’s a high volume of searches for “equity vs equality in the workplace” on Google each month, so I decided to write this blog to help remove any confusion between the two.

In this blog, you’ll find:

  • a definition of equality vs equity in the workplace
  • tips on using both terms in your job descriptions
  • examples of equity vs equality in the workplace
  • how to make a more equitable workplace
  • And, a well-known meme on the subject, here it is…
Equity vs Equality in the Workplace
Image source: The Evolution of an Accidental Meme by Craig Froehle

The original version of the meme created in 2012 by Craig Froehle is pictured above. In 2013, it was edited by an unknown author to include the titles “Equality” and “Equity.” If you haven’t seen the later versions (and my word order doesn’t give it away), you might be asking which is which?

Here’s the answer…the left image represents equality, and the right image represents equity.

But how is equity vs equality in the workplace really defined? Let’s find out.

Equity vs Equality in the Workplace

Some organizations use workplace equity and workplace equality interchangeably, but the terms are different. As the meme above accurately describes, workplace equality provides equal treatment, while workplace equity provides equal outcomes.

Workplace equity considers that not all team members are starting from a place of equal opportunity and will have certain needs to truly have a chance at an equal outcome.

Most co.s understand hiring people from different backgrounds is good. Many studies find that a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace benefits employees, and the bottom line.

For example, one study found:

“Firms are 33% more likely to experience industry-leading profitability if their executive teams represent more cultural and ethnic minorities.”

source: Three Tips For Boosting Business Profits: How Investing In Diversity Increases Profitability by Givelle Lamano.

To make the most of these benefits, fully understanding and incorporating workplace equity into company culture is key. A good first step is to understand when giving your employees the same resources, you might not be giving them the same chance of outcome (or success).

Workplace equality doesn’t always acknowledge or positively affect unconscious biases people might experience (based on sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, and neurodiversity).

Equality also doesn’t consider the lack of access to education and technology many people experience in the U.S. Hiring and retaining diverse talent relies on a policy of workplace equity, not just equality.

Let’s look at how you can prioritize workplace equity in the hiring process.

Equality vs Equity: in your Job Descriptions

Diverse talent with different needs and perspectives are looking for a safe space to work. Co.s that highlight their equitable practices in their job descriptions set themselves apart from their competition, increasing their chances of getting quality applications from a diverse pool of talent.

As we have already seen, diverse talent leads to better company culture and more profitability.

There are 3 sections in your job descriptions where it makes sense to highlight equity in the workplace:

  • Benefits, Salary & Perks
  • About Us (or Mission Statement)
  • EEO & Diversity Statement

Let’s take a look at each:

Highlight Workplace Equity in your “Benefits, Salary & Perks” Section

If you’re serious about equity, your benefits and perks should reflect the needs of a diverse team. Consider things like transportation, women’s health, training programs, mental health, recognized holidays, flexible hours, remote work access, and PTO.

Salary is one of the most important indicators of equity in the workplace. Salary transparency lets your team know they are getting paid for their role, without bias.

A 2018 study found that women of all races earned, on average, 82 cents for every dollar a white man earns, and Latina/x women earn, on average, 54 cents for every dollar a white man earns.

Could your team talk openly about their pay to each other? In an equitable environment, they should be able to. Mention salary in your job descriptions (even if it is just a range, note: some states and cities require it by law) and uphold a promise to pay without bias.

Mention Equity in your “About Us” or “Mission Statement”

The “About Us” or “Mission Statement” section is your opportunity to sell the organization to top talent.

If a diverse workforce is what you’re after, then this is the place to show you understand and care about equity vs equality in the workplace. A good way to do this is to describe equity, for example:

“Part of our mission is to ensure an equitable workplace, where the individual needs of our diverse team are considered and represented. Check out our benefits and transparent salary promise, as well as our two-step onboarding process.”

Employer Branding is useful here too, if you have diverse brand advocates who show prospective candidates you follow through on your equitable promises.

Use “Equity” in your “EEO” and “Diversity Statement”

Many co.s include a generic EEO statement in their job descriptions. This is ok, but it pays to go one step further and create a unique diversity statement to highlight your equitable practices.

Use language showing you understand the difference between “equality” and “equity.” Remember, the 2 words are not interchangeable…and those it matters to most know this.

Using “equity” correctly in your diversity statement might propel you ahead of your competition in the search for talent.

Good practice in your diversity statement (or EEO statement) is to share that you have more to do and your commitment to growth in ensuring equity for the needs of the diverse team.

Other places to highlight equity vs equality?

If you describe your application and onboarding processes in your job descriptions, this is another good place to highlight equitable practices:

  • Give options for how candidates can apply — remember that not everyone has the same technology access.
  • Highlight your company’s hiring programs for neurodiverse candidates if you have one.
  • Consider a two-step onboarding process which includes time with a member of the HR leadership team, a few weeks after a team member’s start date — to discuss any specific needs or concerns each new employee may have.

More Examples of Equity vs Equality in the Workplace

Let’s recap how equity shows up in the workplace (and include some more examples). Plus, contrast the examples with “equal” practice.

Diverse team members across all rolesincluding C-suite and executive positions.

When you have a diverse team all the way to the top, equity is part of the company culture. Remember, equity is about outcome, not just treatment.

Co.s without a diverse team in the C-suite do not have a culture of equity or equality.

Pay Transparency

Your teams should be able to discuss their pay openly if you are paying without bias.

In a workplace that favors equality, pay gaps are likely to be prevalent when unconscious biases are not dealt with.

Individual Support

Offer support for team members with disabilities and neurodiversity, for example. Acknowledge individual needs and provide tools or training to help all people succeed in their roles.

In an equal environment, everyone gets the same support, without consideration for individual needs.

Diverse Benefits and Perks

Include benefits and perks that are as diverse as your team. Include choices with benefits like health care, so people can create a benefits package that works for them.

All benefits and perks will be the same for every team member in an equal workplace, and as individual needs are not considered, many useful benefits and perks are often not included.

Equitable Hiring and Onboarding Strategies

These acknowledge the individual experience of each team member. Provide multiple options to apply for roles. And, include a check-up after onboarding to discuss individual needs.

Hiring will likely be online only in a workplace that highlights equality, and onboarding will be generic for all new team members.

How to Make A Workplace More Equitable

Equitability is a moving target. With this in mind, the most important first step to an equitable workplace is finding out where you are now.

Here are some tips for creating an equitable workplace:

  • Collect data to get an accurate picture of how equitable your workplace currently is.
    • Ask employees for their opinion on how they are represented and supported.
    • Use a metric tool like Diversio.
  • Create a Diversity Council that understands the difference between equality and equity.
    • Ensure there are leaders on the council who can affect real change.
  • Start at the beginning by prioritizing equitable hiring processes, with tools that promote equitable and inclusive hiring.
    • Ongig’s Text Analyzer is a great example of a tool for writing job descriptions to support this.
  • Employ for diversity at the highest level. A diverse leadership team has a deeper understanding of diversity in the workplace.

Why I Wrote This:

Ongig’s mission is to create effective and inclusive job descriptions. Our software shows you how to write job descriptions with equitable practices in mind (in just a few clicks). Please request a demo to learn more.

Shout-Outs:

  1. Understanding Workplace Equity vs Equality (by Diversio)
  2. Quick Facts About the Gender Wage Gap (by Robin Bleiweis)
  3. 9 ways to promote equity in the workplace (and how to lead by example) (by Madeline Miles)
  4. Equity vs. Equality: What’s the Difference? (by LinkedIn News)
  5. Three Tips For Boosting Business Profits: How Investing In Diversity Increases Profitability by (Givelle Lamano)
  6. Meet The Unknown Immigrant Billionaire Betting Her Fortune To Take On Musk In Space (by Lauren Debter)

by in Diversity and Inclusion

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