Equity vs. Equality: What’s the Difference?

Equity and equality are two similar but distinct concepts that are often confused.

HERE'S WHY

In a model of “equality”, employees are given the same support under the assumption they will all benefit in equal ways. In practice, giving all employees access to the same technologies and software to do their work could be considered equal treatment. Equality is not concerned with social and historical trends about the treatment of people from certain demographics.

In a model of “equity”, support is still given to employees, but what this support might look or feel like is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In order to ensure all people have access to the same opportunities as their fellow employees, the help they receive from their employers may vary from what their colleagues receive. Equitable practices might include one-on-one skillshare training, women-friendly policies or accessibility-friendly support services, which attempt to level any areas of difference among employees. Equity acknowledges the unique situations and accommodations employees may need to achieve successful work outcomes, which is something equality does not do.

The target of criticism in discussions about equity and equality is typically rooted in a misunderstanding of the distinction between equality of outcomes and equality of opportunity.

Although some people may argue that equality of outcomes is problematic, for fear it makes the amount of expertise employees have redundant, this is not a framework for which most people are advocating. Instead, employees should be given equality of opportunity in the workplace. This means providing employees with the ability to achieve career advancement no matter their role, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disabilities, or age.

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