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5 Reasons to Focus on Workplace Equity Alongside Diversity and Inclusion

When we talk about diversity and inclusion (D&I), one key concept that's often left out is equity.

Equity refers to a state where everyone – regardless of their ethnic background, country of origin, age, physical ability/disability, or gender – has a level playing field. When diversity, inclusion, and equity go together, your workforce is empowered to bring their best to work.

Equity Isn't Synonymous with Equality

Companies that strive for workplace equality (treating everyone the same, without discrimination) may not factor in the need for equity. The entire workforce comes under the same blanket of rules, privileges, and employee experience design, without an eye on unique, demographic-related needs. This may lead to an unfair work environment.

Equity, on the other hand, attempts to identify the specific needs and requirements informed by demographic traits such as ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, etc. It then tries to address the differing needs of each group by bridging the gap between minority and majority groups. This makes equity central to the genuine empowerment of minority groups (and not just theoretical equality). In other words, a diversity and inclusion program that also covers equity hinges on an acute awareness of varying employee needs. Why is this so necessary?

Companies that invest in equity can benefit in several ways. Here are five reasons why equity should be at the heart of your diversity and inclusion strategy:

1. Equity encourages cognitive diversity in decision-making

Enabling equity, in turn, allows job satisfaction and employee engagement.

Without equity, even the most diverse company will have a one-dimensional leadership team in charge of making decisions. Consider recent reportsby the World Health Organization (WHO), which found that women comprise 70% of the global healthcare workforce, but there are "too few women" making decisions and leading the work.

As a result, leadership teams do not have access to cognitive diversity, which enables varied problem-solving approaches. By taking measures toward workplace equity, you can ensure that a diverse team is responsible for the company's strategic direction, making it more agile and resilient.

2. Equity enables targeted upskilling for a diverse workforce

In a large workforce, you are bound to have varying levels of education, with employees coming from privileged, disadvantaged, and multiple other socioeconomic backgrounds.

Without a strong focus on equity, the same learning and development(L&D) plan would apply to all employees. It is likely that, as a result, several talented individuals would fail to reach their full potential.

Equity-focused training – bridging skill gaps caused by a disability, socioeconomic background, incarceration, non-Portuguese native origins, etc. – can make every worker future-ready and financially stable. The framework even calls employers of a specific size to contribute to a national Workforce Equity Trust Fund (WETF).

3. Equity drives engagement for specific employee demographics

The ideal employee experience will vary across employee groups and demographics.

To take a simple example, a single mother may want to work remotely for at least three out of five days. This doesn't mean that remote working is a must-have policy for the rest of your organization. It just indicates that you are capable of giving an employee the facilities they need to do their jobs well.

4. Equity prevents dissatisfaction, and ultimately employee attrition

When companies don't prioritize equity alongside diversity and inclusion, the quality of experience for minority groups suffers hugely. Everyone might be receiving the same experience – but certain groups do not derive the same level of satisfaction, owing to multiple demographic factors.

Consider a 2019 survey of 850 employees in tech. Only 10% of men said that their voices were sometimes subdued. In contrast, 20% of all respondents felt "actively subdued" in meetings, and all individuals falling in this 20% identified as Asian, Black or African American, Latinx, or Mixed Race.

By working towards equity – for instance, asking different individuals from different groups to spearhead meetings – dissatisfaction could be curbed, ultimately bringing down employee attrition.

5. Equity equips the entire company to contribute to a shared mission

The diversity-inclusion-equity trio aims to help every employee contribute to a shared company vision.

Let's say achieving "50% of women in leadership" is part of your mission statement for the next fiscal year. By proactively taking steps towards equity, companies would have a better chance of reaching this goal.