The topic of 2023’s International Women’s Day is #EmbraceEquity. The aim of this year’s theme is to make it clear that equity isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. In this International Women’s Day blog post, we asked four women from the Femme Palette community to share what equity means to them and how they practice embracing it.
What is equity?
As we’re focusing on equity this year, let’s take a minute to explain what it means. By definition, equity refers to fairness, impartiality, or justice. It refers to the idea of treating people fairly and giving them what they deserve, based on their individual circumstances and needs. This can include issues related to social, economic, and political rights, as well as issues of access and opportunity. In essence, equity is about creating a level playing field for everyone, regardless of their background or identity, in order to ensure that everyone has the same chance to succeed and thrive.
The difference between equity and equality
Equality and equity are two related but distinct concepts. Equality refers to treating everyone the same, regardless of their individual circumstances, while equity means giving people what they need to be successful based on their unique circumstances.
While equality can work in some situations, it can overlook differences in individual needs and experiences, which can lead to unequal outcomes. On the other hand, equity takes into account differences in background, identity, and other factors, and aims to provide extra support or resources to those who need it, in order to level the playing field and ensure that everyone has an equal chance to succeed. Understanding the difference between these two concepts is important in promoting fairness.
How women from our community #EmbraceEquity
DEI Consultant & Educator
As a DEI Practitioner, I am calling out leaders and organizations to truly embrace equity by transforming their good intentions into qualitative actions and in a more structured and strategic way.
That said, I continue to not deliver DEI talks that are not connected to long-term initiatives outcomes. I am careful of where I share my voice avoiding performative effects by inviting my potential clients to reflect before they join the IWD campaign. Let's remember that it is not a celebration, but more of honouring the International Women's Rights Day for the rights we have been so far able to own and for the ones that we are still fighting for.
To Embrace Equity we must not exclude intersectionality. We can not exclude acknowledgement of how privilege plays unconsciously and consciously in the workplace and society. Men should join us as allies as they are an important part of the solution to #EmbraceEquity. Being passive is not being inclusive. We need more focus on systemic change and to do so, we need to look further and beyond compliance.
Chief of People at Bonami
In the modern workplace, achieving gender equity is an inevitably important goal. It still nowadays is a concept difficult to achieve, though and that is why the role of People & Culture teams matters. During my career so far, these have been the areas where People Business Partnering helped business owners and leaders to embrace equity in their workforce.
- Owning equity in daily operations, ie. by making sure that all job postings are gender-neutral and focus on the skills and qualifications required for the job.
- Good People partner helps business leaders to ensure that all hiring and promotion decisions are based on merit, not gender. This one is tricky. No matter how straightforward this point looks, this is where the most biased decisions are taken.
- Using available analytic tools as a control mechanism for equality in the workplace. Does your business provide equal pay for equal work? Are you sure that salary and bonus structures are gender-neutral?
- Encouraging a culture of mutual respect and open communication in the workplace. How? Become a thermometer to equal treatment and don't hesitate to respectfully provide feedback to anyone who unconsciously displays biased tendencies.
- Self-reflection and honesty to self are key in all aspects of our work. Be aware of your own biases and work to challenge them.
- Helping colleagues actively listen to and value the opinions of women in the workplace. Create enough space for female colleagues to speak up! Encourage women to share opinions that are different or offer alternative perspectives. Lead by example!
- Ensuring that there is an equal representation of women in leadership roles is another common, yet challenging goal. Partner the C level not only in hiring right but also in building succession plans in an unbiased way to make sure you grow a pipeline of female leaders in-house!
- People teams are setting the cultural tone in companies by owning policies. Does your company have gender-based discrimination or harassment covered too?
- Last but not least. Every company has a different maturity level in the area of equity. Don't assume all leaders and colleagues master diversity and inclusion already. Despite how long the topic lives with us, it is our role to remember, remind and challenge biased business decisions with them.
Throughout my working and personal life, I have experienced situations where equity and fairness were often lacking. Unfortunately, it is something that happens on a daily basis, that we somehow normalize.
Embracing equity requires a commitment to making it a part of our daily life. As a woman of colour, I feel is my obligation and my right to fight for a world where my possibilities do not depend on my appearance or where I come from.
How? I educate myself: I learn about the experiences of individuals and groups who have been historically marginalized or excluded.
I reflect on my assumptions and biases and challenge them to consider other perspectives and experiences. I am aware that I can re-educate myself. The starting point is to reflect on oneself and have the will to improve as a person.
Another important thing is to speak up and call it out when we witness discriminatory or prejudiced behaviours, don’t stay silent. Also, being mindful of the language I use, avoid using offensive terms, and use gender-neutral language when appropriate. One thing that is directly in my hands is to ensure that my personal environments are inclusive and welcoming to individuals from all backgrounds.
Embracing equity is an ongoing process, and it requires a constant effort to make meaningful changes. It comes from each of us, we can do our bit to make society equitable and just. Like all changes, it has to start somewhere.
Customer Success Business Partner at SThree
I took my first corporate role in a global staffing institution just over a decade ago, in what felt like very different times. Having trained at a music conservatoire, my first experience of working life was as a brass musician in a sharply gendered culture. For a girl to rise to prominence in this bawdy, macho, sexist culture was unthinkable. And this explains why I didn’t question the similarities in environment when I started in my role as a trainee recruitment consultant. Yet since then I have seen many extremely competent, tenured and dedicated women leaders leave the business. And now, due to the rise of the millennial generation, young ambitious women are prepared to do the same. The reason? A lack of equity in the workplace.
For me, the most important aspect of quality is how employees are treated. When applied correctly, I believe equity should help to ensure fairness and equality in outcomes and opportunities, not just in policies. I therefore strive to be a good ally to my colleagues, to enable those who are less confident to speak up, and to encourage everyone to share a sense of belonging and acceptance. Women leaders are just as ambitious as men, but are more likely to experience belittling microaggressions, such as being mistaken for someone more junior. From my experience, women tend to do more to support employee wellbeing and take the lead on inclusion. But this critical work can spread them thin and goes mostly unrewarded.
Equitable opportunities and outcomes can enhance the effectiveness of a team and produce better results. Everyone benefits from a shared sense of fairness and mutual support, even in businesses such as recruitment where competitiveness is an important factor in achieving potential. To foster individual achievement within an equitable environment is a difficult balancing act, but one that pays dividends.
Want to take part in honuring International Women’s Day this year? Join the movement by sharing your own story for #IWD of how you #EmbraceEquity on your socials and inspire others. Let’s make equity a non-negotiable in the modern workplace!