International Women's Day is a day of celebration and recognition of the achievements and struggles of women throughout history. It is a day to honour the women who have struggled for gender equality and the progress that has been made, and also to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done.
But equal opportunities aren’t enough, and at times can even be exclusionary, rather than inclusive.
The key theme of International Women's Day 2023 is the concept of embracing equity over equality. While these two terms are often used interchangeably, they can have distinct meanings and implications, especially in the workplace.
Equality refers to treating everyone the same, regardless of their differences. It assumes that everyone has the same needs and that treating everyone the same will lead to fairness.
Yet, this approach can overlook systemic barriers and disadvantages that some groups may face, such as women and people of colour.
Gender is intersectional and women as a group are diverse. So for example, if a company offers a standardized training program, but it does not consider the unique needs and experiences of women or people of colour, it may perpetuate existing inequalities rather than address them.
Equity recognizes that everyone has different needs and experiences and that addressing those differences is necessary to achieve fairness. It considers systemic barriers and seeks to level the playing field by providing resources and support to those who need it most.
For example, if a company offers a mentoring program specifically for women or people of colour, it acknowledges the unique challenges these groups may face and provides targeted support to help them succeed.
In the workplace, the concept of equity vs. equality has significant implications for promoting gender diversity and inclusion. While companies may strive to treat all employees equally, this approach may overlook the barriers that women face, such as unconscious bias and the lack of female role models in leadership positions.
By adopting an equity-based approach, companies can take active steps to address these barriers and provide targeted support to help women succeed.
Steps you can follow to embrace Equity over Equality in the workplace
Educate yourself and your team
Take the time to educate yourself and your team on the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. This includes attending and providing training workshops, seminars, or webinars on topics such as unconscious bias, microaggressions, and cultural competence. Diversity training can help employees understand how cultural differences can impact how people work and interact at work. Its important to communicate why training is being offered and what you want to achieve from it. This helps to keep employees motivated and understand how learnings will tie back to your company goals.
Communicate importance of managing bias
It’s valuable to remember that no one is an expert and we’re all on an ongoing journey when it comes to respecting and embracing other people’s experiences and realities. Leaders and employees can better manage bias and foster a more inclusive workplace through cultural humility. No one is perfect.
Did you know?: Unconscious biases do not necessarily align with our conscious beliefs or declared beliefs, which means unconscious biases are even more important to pay attention to. https://libraryguides.saic.edu/learn_unlearn/foundations6
Review your hiring and promotion practices
Is your current hiring process and promotion of your jobs & company fair and inclusive? If you’re not certain on this, now is a good time to review. You can also consider implementing blind hiring practices or ensuring that your job descriptions use inclusive language. More on designing equitable and inclusive hiring practices here.
Assess your company policies
As well as a review of your hiring practices, assess your company policies and the way issues are handled within the business. Leaders need to determine whether policies enable or perpetuate discrimination in the workplace and remodel them to reflect and uphold a more equitable workplace.
Address Pay equity
Conduct a pay equity audit to ensure that all employees are paid fairly for their work, regardless of gender, race, or other factors. Regularly review compensation practices and adjust as necessary to ensure that everyone is being paid fairly. This also requires being transparent on pay with your current employees and when hiring and attracting new employees to your business. More tips here.
Encourage & listen to feedback through employee resource groups
Encourage employees to provide feedback on their experiences in the workplace and listen to their concerns. Use this feedback to inform your equity strategies and make necessary changes to create a more inclusive work environment. This can be done through setting up an employee resource group, that can help foster a culture of connection and belonging. How to set up an ERG via CIPD here.
Provide mentorship and sponsorship programs
Providing targeted support to underrepresented groups such as mentorship programs and leadership development programs can help to enable relationships with leaders and role models, and lead to exposure to new opportunities. Facilitating a good coaching and mentoring culture in your organisation can go hand in hand with your equity, diversity, and inclusion practices. More on why coaching & mentoring can benefit you business.
Track progress over time
The effort you put in now doesn’t mean your equity and inclusion efforts will bring overnight success. A shift in culture will take time, so by setting benchmarks and tracking your progress accordingly you can see the impact your efforts are making over time. It can also give you a clear perspective on what’s working, and not working, and what needs improvement going forward to a more equitable workplace.
Adopting and embracing an equity-based approach in the workplace can help companies overcome systemic barriers and provide targeted support to help women succeed. By recognizing the unique needs and experiences of women and other marginalized groups, companies can create a more diverse and inclusive workplace for everyone. It’s a win-win for all, as by having a diverse group of employees not only brings a variety of unique experiences to your business but also outlooks that help them thrive at work and contribute to your company’s growth.
International Womens Day: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/EquityEquality