Equity Unpacked: Making Fairness a Reality

Just treating everyone the same isn't cutting it anymore. We used to think that if we just make sure women, racial minorities, and LGBTQ+ communities get the same treatment as everyone else, that's enough. But here's the kicker: "Same treatment" doesn't mean "fair treatment." Why? Because there are deep-rooted, systemic obstacles that make it hard for these groups to even get to the starting line.

So, we're shifting our focus from equality to equity. It's not just about handing everyone the same toolkit; it's about making sure everyone can actually use that toolkit in the real world. That means understanding the specific challenges faced by groups that have been pushed to the sidelines historically, and then doing something to balance the scales. With equity, we're not just ticking boxes; we're tearing down barriers.

Why focus on equity?

Well, if the last few years have taught us anything, it's that the world is changing, fast. Issues like racial inequality have taken centre stage, and let's not forget how the pandemic highlighted systemic disparities. So, people are paying attention, and companies should too. In fact, surveys show that a large chunk of employees want to see more focus on equity in the workplace. 

What is equity?

Imagine a race where some people have to carry a 50-pound weight and others don't. Simply saying, "Run faster!" isn't going to cut it. Equity is about recognising these different starting points and doing something about it. It's not about treating everyone the same; it's about giving everyone a fair shot at success.
And here's where it gets interesting: How is equity different from equality? Well, equality says, "Let's treat everyone the same," but equity goes, "Hold on, let's level the playing field first." Equality is like handing out shoes to everyone; equity is making sure those shoes actually fit.

So, how does this all tie into diversity and inclusion?

Diversity is about gathering a mix of people, while inclusion is making sure everyone in that mix has a voice. Equity is the game plan that ensures all those voices have the same chance to be heard. 

Let's get a bit brainy for a second.

Our minds are like radar for fairness. When we sense something's off, it's almost as if we've been slapped. Science shows it actually impacts our ability to think clearly. So, equity isn't just good for culture; it actually impacts how we work. 

How do we create equity in our organisations?

One word—allyship. Being an ally means recognising your own advantages and using them to help others who are less privileged. It's like passing the ball in a soccer game to someone who has a clearer shot at the goal. We all have a role to play in this, whether you're an entry-level employee or sitting in the C-suite.

Leading with equity in mind requires deliberate effort and a commitment to continuous learning and growth. Here are some habits you can adopt to help build an equitable environment for your team:

Self-Examination and Education

1.    Check Your Biases: Develop plans to regularly assess your unconscious biases and how they may be affecting your decision-making. If/then plans are really helpful for this. For example If I notice I'm always asking the same individuals for their opinions during team meetings, Then I will make a conscious effort to invite input from quieter or less-represented team members.
2.    Educate Yourself: Continuously educate yourself on issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity. Reading, taking courses, and attending workshops are great ways to do this.

Open Communication and Listening

3.    Transparent Decision-making: Clearly communicate how decisions are made and offer team members the chance to weigh in.
4.    Active Listening: Make it a point to listen and give space for all team members to voice their opinions, concerns, and ideas.
Inclusive Leadership
5.    Equal Opportunity: Offer equal opportunities for challenging projects, development, and promotions to all team members, not just a select few.
6.    Mentorship: Establish a mentoring system that supports underrepresented employees in your organization.

Accountability and Feedback

7.    Be Open to Feedback: Create channels for anonymous and non-anonymous feedback regarding equity in your leadership and the workplace in general.
8.    Set Equity Goals: Make equity a part of your key performance indicators (KPIs) and regularly review progress.

Team Dynamics and Participation

9.    Promote Allyship: Encourage team members to be allies for one another, especially for those from underrepresented or marginalised groups.
10.    Rotate Responsibilities: In meetings or team collaborations, rotate who takes on leadership tasks to ensure everyone gets a chance to lead and be heard.
Resource Distribution
11.    Needs-Based Resource Allocation: Assess the unique needs of each team member and allocate resources such as time, budget, and support accordingly.
12.    Promote Work-Life Balance: Recognise that personal responsibilities and circumstances can differ and make accommodations as needed.

Regular Check-ins and Updates

13.    One-on-Ones: Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings can provide a forum for discussing equity issues directly and confidentially.
14.    Team Wellbeing Checks: Periodically assess the emotional state of people within your team and make adjustments as necessary.

Reward and Recognition

15.    Inclusive Recognition: Develop a rewards system that acknowledges various forms of contribution and excellence, not just the most visible or traditional ones. Think of the platinum rule here - what rewards to my team want - not what rewards to I want. 
By incorporating these habits into your leadership style, you'll be making a significant stride towards creating a more equitable workplace.

Equity isn't just a buzzword; it's a call to action. As leaders and teammates, it will pay dividends to put in the effort and make our workplaces truly equitable. It is however, important to remember we can't just isolate fairness as its own thing; it's tied to the bigger picture within our organisations. Instead of solely blaming managers for unfair practices, we should also look at the larger workplace dynamics that might be setting them up for failure. Are managers overwhelmed with tasks that make it tough to focus on equitable treatment? Are the reward systems in place encouraging behaviour that sidelines fairness? So, along with what we can do as individuals we also must consider the broader organisational factors that might be making implementing fairness much more challenging.

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