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03. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Series: Equity and Equality

We are going to drop you into a story that takes place at a fictitious SMB. While the main goal of this story is to provide ideas around equity and equality in the workforce, we will touch on a variety of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) themes.

Published: Jun 15, 2021

Being the same. Getting there differently.

Equity and equality. Your workforce needs both, but it can get confusing when different people need different things to get to the same place.

In 2019, for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted—and only 58 Black women and 71 Latinas were promoted. McKinsey and Company, Women in the Workplace 2020, September 30, 2020.

Even if equality is trending in the right direction in your organization, are you helping everyone understand the whys and hows of truly leveling the playing field? Are old beliefs dragging your team down the wrong path?

Part 3: Equity and Equality

This is the third in a five-part series designed to provide ideas around DEI.

You will see avenues the characters can take in the conversation below. These are just a few potential paths we believe to be helpful and are not meant to be considered as the only possible outcomes. Feel free to navigate to a different path at the bottom of the story.

The main things you need to know are

  • This fictional SMB is not very far into its corporate DEI journey

  • The story includes real-life content

  • The story takes place during the not-to-distant future when gatherings are more frequent; so while most employees are working from home and meetings are held virtually, social meetings may occur with proper safety precautions. Please assume all characters are taking the proper precautions.

  • We’ve intentionally made certain story points vague for you to fill in with your inherent biases. Try to see if you can catch yourself “filling in the gaps” as you read!

A Rising Tide Floats All Boats

Caden clicked the virtual call button to talk to Pat, visibly upset. As soon as Pat appeared, Caden asked angrily, “Why are the women around here getting special treatment?”

Pat was taken aback. “What do you mean?”

“I mean this whole ‘Professional Women’s Network’ and ‘Women’s Mentoring’ groups that are starting up. So, women are getting all this support, and I’m not getting any. What about a ‘Professional Men’s Network’ group, why isn’t that a big push for our company? If women need so much support, maybe they aren’t the right fit for the company.”

Pat let out a sigh and realized the company’s adoption of employee resource groups possibly could have been better communicated. Pat had heard this complaint a few times about women’s networking groups and efforts for other diverse groups. Some people just didn’t understand or didn’t have an opportunity yet to see the big picture, and Pat realized that a focused internal campaign to educate others would have been helpful to assuage such complaints. Pat was glad that the executive leadership team supported the effort. Pat wanted Caden to understand the benefits of such groups, and more broadly speaking how equality is not the same idea as equity. Pat also hoped Caden would be supportive.

“Caden, I appreciate your perspective and candor, as I always do. As you probably have noticed, until recently, most of our management team has been men, and most of the candidates considered for management positions have been male. That history shows that we as a company have a lot of opportunities here for men to succeed, and we are trying to ensure those advancement opportunities are available to all our colleagues in the organization, and that we are contributing as well to everyone’s professional development. We think having these resource groups will help women develop in their careers and have the support and skills and mentorship that may help them move into management. Also, adding people from different backgrounds to the company’s leadership will help our performance as a team and company by bringing diverse perspectives to the team. When we have a diverse team, we can be more creative and innovative, and stay ahead of our competitors.”

“That all sounds great, Pat, but I’m not buying it.” Caden was still angry, and he thought about rallying support from others.

Pat tried to reframe the idea away from the specific women’s employee resource group that had caught Caden’s eye and focus on the foundational importance of equity. “Caden, hear me out. It is important to understand that there is a difference between ‘equality’ and ‘equity’. Equality is about treating everyone equally. Equity recognizes that individuals are unique and have different needs, backgrounds, and desires – and for those reasons may not need the same thing as everyone else. So, equity is the principle of ensuring individuals receive more customized opportunities and support based on each individual’s needs. Equality and equity are concepts along the same continuum – they aren’t opposites.”

Caden wrinkled his brow for an instant and responded, “Okay, Pat. Hey, listen, I’ve got to go. Thanks for taking the time, but I still don’t get it. Maybe we can chat another time,” while hanging up the virtual call.

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