International Women’s Day is on the 8th of March. This years theme is Embrace Equity. But what does equity mean and how do we embrace something that isn’t always there?
What is Equity?
“An equitable outcome is one where every individual from every demographic has the opportunity to reach their full potential resulting in more economic opportunity for everyone.”
The simple definition of equity refers to fairness and justice. Whilst it is easy to list it as a synonym to equality, it is in fact a very different matter. Equality fights for the same for everyone, expecting that this will make people equal. However, this wrongly assumes that we all start out in the same place. Inequality affects many people, historically it has and continues to block marginalized communities.
Equality revolves around the concept of fairness, which makes things tricky as it is often assumed that being fair means that everybody should get the same thing. Equality is only fair if we all start with the same things, equality only works in a world where we are all equal to begin with. The only way to truly remove these barriers is through personalized approaches.
The goal of equity is to change systemic and structural barriers that get in the way of people’s ability to thrive. Equity acknowledges that people do not begin life in the same place and unfortunately, evolving circumstances make it increasingly difficult for people to achieve the same goals. Despite leaps of progress, women are still under-represented in the workplace. Even more so, inequality affects people of colour, people with disabilities, economically disadvantaged groups and those in the LGBTQ+ community. This is why equity is so important, peoples experiences are diverse and reach beyond gender.
What does it mean to Embrace Equity?
“ 42% of young women have experienced discrimination whilst working or looking for work. Furthermore, 73% of women experience bias at work—yet less than a third of employees are able to recognize bias when they see it.”
Whether it is deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it not only harder for women to get hired, but it blocks promotion and career progression. Aside from this, it negatively impacts day to day life. Finding connection and support at work is a major challenge. Since most senior leaders are men, women are less likely to have access to mentors who can not only relate to their experiences, but promote important change.
Significant numbers of young women are in precarious financial situations, this hardship is only spurred on in the ongoing cost of living crisis. Young Women’s Trust: Annual Survey 2022 found that 44% of young women have been offered zero hour contracts in 2022, compared to 33% of young men.
Active Allyship in the Workplace
“Women and underrepresented groups alone cannot solve diversity and inclusion problems. An ally is a person who stands up for others to proactively build inclusion in our workplace”
So how do we as individuals, or as employers, managers or coworkers ‘Embrace Equity’ in a system which is flawed? One vital way is to become an active ally. Active Allyship in the workplace means that we as individuals must put in the groundwork to not only examine, but confront personal and systematic bias. When we not only witness, but acknowledge bias we can then build actionable change.
Active Allyship is arguably the most important catalyst to not only build but drive inclusion in our workplaces and communities. It must become a daily practice sustained through not only action, but education. Rosanna Durruthy writes about the importance of connection in order to “explore where you can be creating opportunities, build professional bonds and act as a resource and advocate for others in your professional community”.
Ok things have improved over time, but this doesn’t mean we should settle. Nor does it mean that we should overlook barriers that disadvantage groups still face. Make the commitment to yourself to become an active ally, ensure that people’s rights are upheld and respected. It is important to create communities that revolve around compassionate accountability. Remember, your perspective will always be limited by your own circumstances and personal biases. Keep listening, sharing and growing and actively drive for inclusive culture. It is only through embracing equity that we can achieve equality.
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