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Life, Liberty, & Equity for All!

On July 4th, 1776, the founding fathers wrote “All men are created equal” in a powerful statement, demanding liberty and justice for all.

As we talk about the 4th of July, I want to bring to you a quote from a speech written by Frederick Douglass:

“The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

This was written in 1852. The year is now 2021; why does this resonate with me? The United States is independent of Great Britain, slavery was made illegal, and the Civil Rights Movement made progress toward an equal society. But with the events of 2020, it has become more and more evident that not all are equal, and that liberty and justice is not a right that all are guaranteed.

It’s not enough to be equal. We need to talk about equity too.

When we talk about “DEI,” we talk a lot about creating a diverse workforce and increasing inclusive behaviors, but the “E” often slips under the radar. What does equity mean in the workplace? Why does equity matter? How can you go about increasing equity at your place of work?

Equality and equity may sound alike, but are very different concepts. Equality means providing the exact same resources, allowances, rules, etc. Everyone is treated exactly the same regardless of their needs. On the other hand, equity means providing what is needed for each employee. For example, suppose you had two employees. One employee has a chronic illness that makes it difficult for them to come into the office every day. The other employee is a single mother with a 3 year old child who can only afford daycare three out of the five work days. You, as the manager, need to come up with a solution so that both can complete their work to the same standard. An equal solution might be that both employees need to come to the office three days out of the week. An equitable solution might be that the employee with a chronic illness has more flexibility to telework when they need to, while the mother works in the office three days out of the week and then teleworks the other two days.

Equity is like a step to equality. Equity in the workplace means giving each employee the resources to perform at their best. Not everyone needs the same resources and it may be wasteful to provide everyone the same. But if you give employees the resources they need to succeed and encourage them to use those resources, they are more likely to be more engaged at work and fewer turnover intentions (Kaiser et al., 2020).

At first, it might seem strange that equity is roped in with diversity and inclusion. But equity is inherently tied to diversity and