Just like privilege, the line between equity and equality may be hard to define if you’ve never had to fight for either.
Surely, equality is a product of everyone being treated equally? Wouldn’t this be the solution to the many socio-economic issues faced by black people, especially highlighted by the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement?
Well, no. Treating everyone equally actually keeps people at the level they are now. Equity, however, is the process whereby everyone is elevated to the same level as each other in order to achieve equality.
For example, imagine you are going to a concert to see your favourite band. You’re on the short side and, despite paying the same ticket price as everyone else, it’s likely your view of the stage will not be as clear as others around you who are much taller. Although the venue has provided a step for you to stand on, it has also given the same step to everyone else, so your view is not improved at all! However, what if the venue had given each concert-goer a specially sized step that raised everyone to the same height? Problem solved!
You see, for everyone to be on the same level, and therefore achieve equality, you need equity first.
Equity cannot be achieved by cobbling together a diversity and inclusion policy or hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, although these are good places to start. The process involves taking a fundamental look at your organisation’s culture and implementing real change.
Here are some top tips for where to start in your workplace:
Place value on education
Many white leaders may only have an inkling of the history and discrimination faced by black people, so a little research will go a long way in helping to build empathy and respect. As well as examining your own privilege and personal biases, it’s vital to take a magnifying glass to your organisation’s norms, values and practices to see how they may provide advantage to white people. And this isn’t a job just for the CDO, but for everyone!
Promote openness around race
It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomforta