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The next step in creating a sense of belonging is to provide Equity in the workplace. First, let's understand the difference between Equality and Equity because each has a distinct impact on approach and outcomes. Equality is treating everyone the same. Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Equity appears unfair, but it actively moves everyone closer to success by "leveling the playing field."

Equity is an approach that ensures everyone has access to the same opportunities. Equity recognizes that advantages and barriers exist, and as a result, we don't all start from the same place.

Equity is a process that begins by acknowledging that unequal starting place and then continues by addressing and correcting the imbalance.

The idea of "advantages and barriers" can often feel intangible, so here are two real examples. A study of a hiring process found that candidates with "white-sounding names" (i.e., Greg and Emily) were 50% more likely to receive a call back than candidates with "African-American-sounding names" (i.e., Lakisha and Jamal). Another study asked faculty scientists to evaluate candidates' competencies, whether they would mentor the candidate, and what they'd suggest as a starting salary. The study found that female candidates with resumes and criteria identical to male candidates were deemed less competent, less worthy of being hired, offered less career mentoring, and offered a lower starting salary.

Having an "advantage" because you have a white-sounding name or are perceived as male proves an inequitable process. Having an African-American-sounding name or being perceived as female confirms a "barrier" to the individual in an inequitable process. The practice of equity seeks to identify these imbalances and then create processes where the different outcomes wouldn't exist.

Turn a Blind Eye to Bias

The previous examples of resumes are just the beginning of the hiring process. Think about other processes in your organization, from firing, promotions, team creation, and task assignment, to the smaller things like how you celebrate successes, run meetings, or make introductions. Each of these actions has an impact on those directly affected and the company culture as well.

Actions and decisions like these often stem from either explicit bias or unconscious bias. We may not intend to slight or discriminate, but our upbringing, cultural beliefs, and life experiences shape our ways of thinking. And that leads to acting and making decisions, not entirely based on facts, but on "gut instinct."

At work, make every effort to act and make decisions that are fact-based, merit-conscious, and bias-free. Understand that equity is what makes a good organization a great place to work; each employee knowing that they have equal opportunity to achieve and succeed at any level, because they are qualified and deserving of such accomplishment.

And so it goes in life; approach each interpersonal encounter without judgment, without bias, without agenda. See each person as a unique combination of characteristics that only they comprise. Set aside your internal beliefs, your past experiences, and simply observe exactly what you see, hear, and feel from the person in front of you.

Consider these questions to see how bias might affect your approach and delivery when interacting with others:

  1. Do I check my bias when conversing with or confronting others?

  2. Do I come with positive thoughts and feelings when thinking about or approaching others?

  3. Do I regard others as unique individuals or as part of a characteristic group?

In the next lesson, we'll discuss the importance of Inclusion.

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Written by

Jimmy Glenos