Why Businesses Should Make the Shift
Consumer interest in what is commonly referred to as Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) has risen over the years. With the values of DEI, this morally-driven concern has prompted businesses to internally act in accordance.
Many businesses have taken a positive step towards a more socially equal work environment by establishing diversity quotas and placing an emphasis on equality. However, DEI fails to fully tackle the difficulties marginalised people face in the business world – and a lot of the time, the inclusion part is almost entirely skipped. This is the reason we say that Inclusion and Equity are in.
Although the difference may seem subtle, it is crucial for real social change and fairly apportioned opportunities.
Defining Diversity, Defining Inclusion
Diversity is plainly defined as variety. It is when a group is comprised of a mixture of different people. That may be people with various countries, regions, and continents, disabled people, trans people; a group of people with societal and social differences.
Businesses practise diversity by hiring people from different social groups to create a varied workforce. For example, employers will make a conscious effort to hire people of colour or individuals from the LGBTQ+ community. These efforts are often done to tick certain boxes so that companies can flaunt that they have a certain percentage of employees belonging to particular minority groups. This can sometimes seem like a bit of an empty gesture.
Diversity arguably does not go beyond a surface-level façade which enables businesses to give the appearance of being diverse. Inclusion, by contrast, extends itself to how those employees are treated once within that workplace. It is about how valued they are and how comfortable they feel. By definition, inclusion is the act of being included within a group structure.
Whilst diversity is the group structure, it is vacant of any substance. Inclusion is the act of ensuring the people within that group matter and know they matter.
Defining Equality, Defining Equity
Similarly, the concept of equality fails to acknowledge some substantial differences that equity does.
Equality means that everyone is treated the same. It would suggest that the treatment of each person in the workforce should be the same, regardless of their background or any disadvantages they may be at. It fails to acknowledge prejudices or roadblocks that may hinder them. This does not recognise the alternative factors that may have hindered different groups.
The experiences of a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual man from a middle-class background are very different to the experiences of a Black, transgender, homosexual woman from a working-class background. Even just one of these differences (if you were cis, heterosexual, and middle- class but were Black) will generate various forms of unjust discrimination, suffering from systemic racism that your white counterparts would not.
In a perfect world, businesses pushing for equality would be enough. We do not live in a perfect world. Everyone has the equal opportunity of applying for a job. However, not everybody has the same chance of getting the job because of different factors which have affected them.
Businesses must shift from equality to equity to create a fairer workforce. Minorities must have their individual needs met differently because people do not have equal privileges. Equity acknowledges this, and acknowledges that those who are not benefactors of our system should be treated in accordance with their needs. Things must be done to help those who are oppressed thrive in businesses. Equality can, in fact, sustain inequality within a business context.
Including the Importance
There are several reasons why it is so important for businesses to distinguish the difference between Inclusion and Equity, and Diversity and Equality. Implementing policies of Inclusion and Equity are much better for both the employer and the employee.
A key issue when leadership makes policies through the lens of Diversity and Equality is that they do not ensure that minority groups feel comfortable or valued. They get them into the business, but there is nothing after that to ensure they can reach their full potential.
35% of LGBTQ+ workers hide their identity from colleagues from fear of discrimination at work. 18% claimed that they have been the victims of bigotry in the organisations they work for. Globally, 52% of women endure ‘non-inclusive behaviour’ at work.
With these kinds of statistics, it is clear to see how the confidence of minority groups would be affected within the workplace. It hinders them from putting themselves forward for promotions; promotions they may never be considered for because of potentially bigoted opinions of those in high-up positions whose characteristics make them benefactors of the system. This is exampled by the fact that just 29% of senior management roles in the world are held by women, 71% being men.
These statistics show an unfair disparity between men and women in power. Similarly, these imposed feelings of inferiority can counter the confidence of workers in voicing their ideas which could help the business. It could also have a serious effect on their mental health. If there was a shift from forced diversity to real inclusivity, these marginalised groups would be able to excel in the workplace by virtue of feeling safer.
It has been reported that diverse, inclusive teams boost creativity and solve problems faster. This would benefit both business (by authenticating the talents of a diverse range of capable and intelligent people) and the individual (by making them feel tended enough to thrive). That is one of the reasons there is a need for business to make the shift from Diversity and Equality to Inclusion and Equity.
It would be easy for that kind of framework to fail and become tokenistic diversity rather than true inclusion, which is why there is such a need for this shift. Diversity is not enough.
An equitable approach for businesses is what’s essential for workers to be the best version of themselves at work. There is a great need for equity rather than equality when it comes to disabled employees. It would seem ridiculous to state that if the only way to get into an office building is up a flight of stairs.
A wheelchair user would not be able to get to the office to do their job. However, the wheelchair user technically has the same equal chance to going to work as someone who could get up the stairs because they have the job. Equity would be providing wheelchair-accessible alternatives such as ramps to ensure people who could not use the stairs still have a way to access the office. Equity is not always so obvious and physical, however.
Equitability can also be exercised in governance of business by instating work schedules that are flexible or including paid family medical leave as part of the employment package, for example. Those two instances identify some of ways in which business could actively place equity before equality.
These kinds of policies can greatly improve the lives of staff who are disabled, parents or have other commitments which could hamper their performance and their wellbeing if the workplace does not assist them appropriately.
Businesses need to make the shift from Diversity and Equality to Inclusion and Equity for the health of their business and their workers. Additionally, they also must give their disadvantaged applicants the best chance. Regardless of their backgrounds and identities, individuals need to be considered for roles. This is to say, there should not be any prejudice in the application process from those hiring.
However, a ‘colour-blind’ approach is also not the most useful path for employing people. It is counterproductive to deem every candidate as having equal opportunity to be successful in the employment process and having had equal opportunity to build up an impressive resume. It is instead critical for employers to consider the different lived experiences of the candidates. An individual from a working-class background who has just graduated from university is unlikely to have the same experiences as someone in the same position but from a higher class, whose parents may have a network of friends who let their children do work experience with them or funded them to go on ‘voluntourism’ trips.
A lack of these ‘extra experiences’ does not necessarily make the working-class candidate any less capable of the job. It is important to acknowledge that they do not come from a wealthy family which can enable these experiences. It is the same with any minority group. To return to the notion of ‘colour-blind’ hiring, which suggests the playing the field is levelled by ignoring the race of candidates. This is equality.
Equity is more essential; it is important to acknowledge the race or background of any potential worker in the recruitment process if you are truly striving for equality. This is because affirmative action enables peoples underrepresented in companies to actually have the same chance at getting a job as their more privileged counterparts. Businesses should not say: ‘Hey, you all have the same chance, we’re not discriminating’ and should say: ‘We see you have not all had the same opportunities in life, and we will take this into consideration in the application process’. This will assist in diversifying the workplace in an authentic way, in contrast to the superficial way we often see being executed.
Businesses need to make the shift from Diversity and Equality to Inclusion and Equity. Adequate change cannot be made when looking through a lens of Diversity and Equality. The lens of Inclusion and Equity ensure that marginalised people and the health of businesses are flourishing. Those who have been disadvantaged in our society deserve the same chances as the most privileged, but providing them with a level playing field is not enough. They have never been on a level playing field. It is a case of advocating for real progress, ensuring inclusion and providing equity over equality.
Related blog posts: