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What Exactly is Equity?

As we discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and how we can excel in these areas as organizations, it is crucial that we are all on the same page as to what these concepts refer to. Previous blogs tackle the meaning of diversity and inclusion, and today we consider: What does it mean to be equitable?

Definition of equity

Equity is “the fair treatment of all employees regarding the accessibility of information, opportunities, and resources considering the different circumstances each employee faces.”

It can be helpful to consider equity in terms of “Targeted Universalism.” Targeted universalism involves “setting universal goals pursued by targeted processes to achieve those goals.” The elements of targeted universalism include:

  • Universal goals are established for all groups.

  • The strategies developed to achieve those goals are targeted, based upon the needs of specific groups, to obtain the universal goal.

Targeted universalism is goal oriented, and the processes are directed in service of the explicit, universal goal. For example, your organization is using a system to select for high potential (HiPo) and this system is used to flag the best candidates for future leadership roles in your organization. When looking at the pool of candidates flagged as HiPo, you notice that women of color are missing from this pool despite making up 10% of the workforce. In order to increase equity, you could develop a pipeline of WoC by holding professional development sessions for this specific group and identifying top performers within those sessions who could then be added to the HiPo pool.

As targeted universalism indicates, all of the processes in place in an organization should serve the goal of increasing DEI outcomes. By increasing equity in HiPo designations, you can increase diversity, equity and inclusion in your company.

How do you measure equity?

Measuring equity is often considered in terms of pay equity, given that this indicator is one of the easiest to understand and measure (Mattingly et al., 2022). The challenge lies in finding whether there are inequities in the process and policies that lead people to make what they make.

We therefore recommend conducting an equity audit, which evaluates differences between various demographic groups on key outcomes (in this case, compensation) and what policies, practices and/or procedures might be causing inequitable outcomes. While a thorough explanation of an equity audit is outside of the scope of this blog (contact us to learn more!), below are some tips for sources of information to consider:

  • Your recruitment and selection procedures

  • Your promotion and pay raise process

  • A pulse or engagement survey of equity perceptions

Why is equity important?

When making the business case for DEI, it is often easier to explain the case for increasing diversity in talent and creating a more inclusive environment for that talent (and everyone else). But some might struggle to see how dismantling a policy or practice that’s been in place for a long time can be beneficial for increasing equity. Equity aims to dismantle effects of historical marginalization by making sure that those who have been disadvantaged are given equal footing. In the work context, these decisions are often related to selection, promotion, and compensation. Without equity, the beneficial effects of diversity and inclusion are unlikely to be realized.