Yesterday, the world watched as domestic terrorists breached the Capitol Building. While that on its own was appalling to witness, the separate and unignorable narrative was the stark contrast in the response those storming the Capitol received from police and law enforcement versus how police forces dealt with Black Lives Matter protesters just months ago.
This is a clear indication and demonstration that in this country everyone is not treated the same. And if it happens this clearly and publicly at a societal level, it no doubt runs rampant at an organizational level, both internally with the people you have on your team and externally with the treatment of your customers.
We have had plenty of evidence from a business standpoint that people aren’t treated equally. The gender pay gap still exists, with women paid only 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. That gap increases when looking at women of color. We know that women and people of color receive disproportionately less in venture capital funds. We also know that women and minorities are significantly underrepresented at the top spots of larger companies and on their boards.
And, over the holidays, a 14-year old Black boy was racially profiled, assaulted, and falsely accused of stealing a cellphone by a former guest, a White woman, at the Arlo Hotel in New York City. Hotel security enabled the incident, and it took hours for the hotel to apologize to the boy and his father who at the time was a guest at the hotel, and whose video of the incident incited outrage.
Since equality isn’t yet the norm, we have to find other means to rectify things. That means prioritizing equity. Both equality and equity are about fairness, they just take different approaches to achieve the same goal. Equality is about treating everyone the same. Equity focuses on treating people differently based upon need.
What happens when equity is prioritized
When you prioritize equity, you acknowledge that the system doesn’t work the same for everyone, which leads to varying degrees of results for similar effort. When you prioritize equity, you can actually begin the work of making progress on your diversity, inclusion, and belonging goals.
Unbounce, a software company in Vancouver, British Columbia, prioritized equity and closed its gender pay gap. Unilever prioritized equity and achieved gender balance across its management teams globally. Spotify prioritized equity and created an accelerator program to get more women of color into the world of podcasting.
To be clear, everyone doesn’t believe in equity. Some, particularly those who aren’t part of the groups who have been marginalized, will feel discriminated against. The irony is that programs focused on equity are designed to level the playing field, to prevent success from being more difficult for certain groups of people than others.
Don’t let the naysayers deter you. Use any opposition as an opportunity to educate on what you’re doing, what your goals are, and why there is a need to provide additional support to certain groups of people.
Business is about belonging. And because as a society we still struggle with equality, equity becomes essential in creating environments where both your team and your customers feel like they belong with you.
If you are wondering how to get started, consider your communications. Acknowledge areas where people aren’t being treated equally. Then start to be transparent about what steps you will take to dismantle any unfair systems your brand can impact, by prioritizing equity.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.