Today, most employers understand the importance of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) as a means to fostering a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive workplace for those from marginalised communities.
But increasingly, organisations are also looking to prioritise equity within the workplace. What does equity mean in this context and how can your organisation best foster it?
The evolution of D&I
Diversity is about recognising what makes us different and unique, while considering how to best respect those differences. This includes, but is not limited to, factors such as race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Inclusion is the act of creating an environment where people not only feel valued and welcomed, but confident in being themselves.
In recent years, D&I has evolved into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I). In the workplace, an emphasis on equity means ensuring that all employees will receive fair treatment and can access the same opportunities - free from any bias or discrimination.
So what makes equity so important? Put simply, institutions cannot create a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone feels, welcome, respected and supported if they cannot guarantee fair access, opportunities and treatment for all. This requires organisations to eliminate the obstacles that might prevent accessibility for the most underrepresented and marginalised groups within their workforce.
Other acronyms are in circulation, such as DIB (in which the B stands for belonging), but the importance of equity mustn’t be underestimated. Its absence can harm marginalised groups in several ways whether via microaggressions, gaslighting, or discrimination. This can have lasting effects on your employees, including lack of motivation and productivity, poor mental health, and low self-esteem.
How can organisations address equity within the workplace and what measures can be implemented?
Collect meaningful data
To determine what changes should be implemented, companies need to understand the structure and make-up of their workforce. This means that compiling demographic data and carefully analysing the results must be at the forefront of any DE&I practices. This data will serve as the foundation to understanding the diversity of an employee base and the equity of the employer’s policies and practices.
Hire a DE&I Consultant
Consider hiring a DE&I consultant to help you assess your organisation and its existing strategies. They will be able to help you in the development of a new DE&I policy that prioritises driving equity.
Identify key areas of concern
Once your data is in place you can start assessing what areas need the most immediate change and start from there. Try asking questions like: ‘have promotions largely been limited to a certain gender or race?’ ‘Is our management team diverse?’ 'How do we recruit new employees and does that advantage some people over others?' A more comprehensive list of questions can be found here.
Set targets and accountability
After your organisation has reviewed all areas of concern, it’s time to set out key metrics to achieve your longer-term DE&I goals. Setting measurable expectations, from work qualifications to pay equality to addressing any policies that might be creating barriers are good starting points. ‘Blind hiring’, for example, can be an effective technique to help reduce unconscious bias during the recruitment process. Simply anonymize any personal information about a candidate that could lead to unconscious bias from the recruiter or manager.
To achieve your DE&I goals, you’ll need to implement tangible initiatives, whether it’s formal policy change, staff training, targeted recruiting, creating a diversity board, a commitment to improving diversity at a leadership level, or DE&I training for all managers.
These are just a few examples of initiatives that your company can adopt to drive equity.
DE&I is not a static process but a journey. It’s important to review your metrics, practices, and goals to ensure you can adapt and respond to changes as necessary. Forming an equity accountability group, for example, will help keep the company on track, as will establishing regular check-ins among executive staff to check-in on the progress.
Most crucially, organisations cannot achieve diversity or inclusion if they do not approach them through an equity lens.
Check hiring practices
Targeted recruiting can help combat underrepresentation. Think about the language you are using and where best to list new job openings. Make sure that you are drawing from a diverse candidate pool.
Look beyond qualifications
Looking for candidates with specific qualifications and work experience doesn’t guarantee the best hire for your team. Some candidates from marginalised communities, for example, might not have followed a traditional career path, but that doesn’t mean they won’t prove to be a valuable addition to your workplace. Consider how your hiring specifications are alienating certain people and look to create a more inclusive process that assesses employee potential.
Invest in onboarding programs
Well-considered onboarding processes can also go a long way to helping assist new team members from marginalised backgrounds. Implementing mentorship programs, for example, will help employees feel more included and give them a chance to learn and develop so that they can ultimately fulfil their goals and succeed in their careers.
Equity is all about finding the imbalances within your workplace so that they can be effectively rectified. Whether it’s a gender or racial pay gap or biased hiring practices, your organisation must recognise these issues and take prompt action to establish equity.