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Equity versus equality – putting the right E into your DE&I

Published Mar 08, 2023 – By Eve Reed

Contemporary art collage. Man and woman standing near ladder of success with unequal steps symbolising gender discrimination.

The 2023 International Women’s Day (IWD) theme is ‘embrace equity’ – which got us thinking about the E in DE&I (diversity, equity and inclusion), not just for women but for all underrepresented groups. While DE&I should, by now, be high on every organisation’s agenda, some are further down the road than others with policies and practices. Whether you call it EDI, DEI or DE&I, your organisation’s approach to diversity, equity and inclusion (and actions) can speak volumes about your company culture and values. It will impact what people think of your workplace (reputationally) and how it feels to work there, which all feeds into your employer brand.

What does equity really mean?

The data has been telling us all for a while that diverse and inclusive workplaces aren’t just the right thing but make good business sense too (happier, more innovative, productive and better at decision-making 87% of the time). To this end, companies are increasingly recognising that diversity and inclusion should form a central strand of content strategies. But it’s only more recently that the all-important ‘E’ element has also become a bigger part of the overall narrative. In many cases, references are still only to D&I, with ‘equity’ either missed out of policies and workplace initiatives, or in some cases a bit misunderstood. If you quiz your colleagues about the E in DE&I, would people say it stands for equity or equality? And beyond the acronyms, not as many people as you might think seem to know the difference between equity and equality or they use these terms interchangeably. It’s easy for the nuances to get a little lost in translation, especially when the language differs from one organisation to another, or when Google search results throw up countless reports, viewpoints and other content that obscures the picture even more.

Equality suggests everyone should be treated equally, whether it’s equal access to education (a UN Sustainable Development Goal), hiring and promotion, or equal treatment in the workplace – while equity is defined as ‘fairness’. Treating everyone equally might seem fair and just, but this isn’t recognising the advantages and barriers created by people’s different starting points in life. Diversity does recognise everyone is different, but if you want to really empower people, it’s important to pay attention to equity – so everyone can experience equal outcomes. In the workplace, for example, this means providing individual employees with unique resources to ensure they have fair and equal access to opportunities.

How can a business increase conversations around equity?

This year’s IWD campaign is about getting more conversations going about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. As the campaign highlights, equality is the goal, but equity is how we get there. Your brand might talk about diversity and inclusion and be working hard to put these into action but is it time to take a little lens to your policies and practices, conversations and communications, both internally and externally, and ask yourself a few questions: 

  • Are you doing enough to try and correct the barriers and advantages that make things tougher for some people and easier for others?
  • Could you be working a bit harder internally to ensure everyone in your organisation – not just the decision-makers, advocates, mentors or diverse role models – appreciates the nuances between equity and equality?
  • If you’re in a position to safely shout about it (without fear of any greenwashing), is your content strategy really articulating the E in DE&I?
  • And are you confident you’re using the right language?

For tips on marketing your diversity, equity and inclusion communications strategy, read our blog here, and to find out how Wardour can help with your next campaign, get in touch at hello@wardour.co.uk - we'd love to have a chat. 

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