The 2023 International Women’s Day campaign theme on equity seeks to help forge conversations on why “equal opportunities are no longer enough” in today’s world. In recent years, the debate has grown significantly and the words equity and equality are often used interchangeably. In order to champion social equity, it is important for organizations to understand and acknowledge the difference between the two.
EQUALITY VS EQUITY
Equality is defined as the state of being equal while equity takes the element of justice or fairness into consideration. When conditions and circumstances differ, it is possible that “equal” treatment does not produce “equity.” This distinction is explained with the famous illustration showing people of different heights using boxes to stand on in order to see over a fence; equality means all boxes are identical, but equity means the boxes are the appropriate sizes to permit the people, regardless of their height, the ability to see over the fence.
Equity has become an important focal point in Diversity and Inclusiveness campaigns, changing the former D&I to DE&I as socio-political polarization and social inequities continue to increase. However, it is important to note that while an inclusive group is diverse by definition, a diverse group is not always inclusive. An inclusive organization strives for equity and respects, accepts and values differences. Therefore, equity is the means to achieve an inclusive environment and remove impeding equal outcomes.
INCORPORATING EQUITY INTO THE D&I STRATEGY
Last year, SGV made a conscious effort to explicitly incorporate equity in our overall D&I strategy. It better reflects who we are and how we work. It shows our commitment to shaping environments that support inclusive experiences for our people to thrive. Equity accounts for the uniqueness we all bring to the firm — recognizing that different individuals and social groups have different needs, starting points and opportunities. We want our DE&I journey to enable a sustainable, inclusive environment that advances our culture by continuously looking for opportunities to close our ‘say/do’ gaps and remove fences within the organization.
The firm has introduced a series of actions to ensure a safe environment, fair access for all and to make opportunities more equitable. For example, SGV professionals have access to communication channels they can contact to ensure compliance with ethical behaviors within the framework of our Global Code of Conduct and in accordance with our values. We also have a coaching culture; coaching helps us uncover different perspectives and creates a safe space that enables vulnerable and authentic conversations. We are committed to providing the tools, resources, and environment that our people need to be successful and build meaningful careers.
As highlighted in a recent EY article, “How EY is working to uplift social equity through authentic storytelling,” EY, of which SGV is a member firm, has been stepping up its existing commitment with specific focus on social equity. This includes the formation of the Global Social Equity Taskforce (GSET) in 2020, which is made up of 40 senior leaders across geographies, functions, and backgrounds. The GSET has developed a suite of actions to advance social equity in the firm and beyond.
A global standard for DE&I measurement across all business units was also developed three years ago in the form of the DE&I Tracker, which was created to hold everyone accountable to progress and covers a range of visible and invisible differences. Moreover, all partners and employees have access to an “Inclusive Leadership for ALL” e-learning course within EY, and can also work towards an Inclusion and Belonging Badge through the global upskilling program, EY Badges.
To identify gaps and ensure that hidden inequities are uncovered and addressed, EY launched additional global Self-ID capabilities in 2022. This increased the range of personal information choices that people can select in EY HR reporting systems. In addition, listening tools like the EY People Pulse Survey help EY better understand how its people are feeling and what they need. The survey takes into consideration differentials in responses based on various dimensions such as gender, cultural background, and generation to minimize gaps.
SUPPORTING THE EFFORT TO PROMOTE SOCIAL EQUITY
Organizations can support efforts to further encourage social equity by creating a strong sense of belonging for all. When people feel they genuinely belong, they are more motivated and engaged, as well as exhibit lower stress, greater wellbeing, and higher performance. Equitable sponsorships can also boost progression, inspire confidence and transform careers.
While everyone has biases — these can be challenged and mitigated by understanding what these biases can look like, what shapes them, and when they’re likely to arise. By questioning whether a decision is a preference, a tradition or requirement in every process, we can uncover different perspectives, remove barriers, expand options, and improve the quality of our decisions.
INSPIRING CONVERSATION THROUGH AUTHENTIC STORIES
On Feb. 27, Karyn Twaronite, the EY Global Vice-Chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness, officially announced the external launching of a short film series featuring EY colleagues from around the world. These films spotlight a range of different experiences and inequities to help our people better connect and understand each other. The storytelling campaign has been internally meaningful, sparking reflections, insights, and conversations. The stories have helped our people to better engage with one another as a community, building greater connections and understanding. These films are shared with broader audiences to create a positive impact beyond our organization.
This is one step forward to create positive change through a greater awareness and an invitation to participate in the conversation. It is hoped that by sharing these stories, we make a difference beyond us. Together, we can inspire social equity and create meaningful change towards a more inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.
This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.
Luisa Anna E. Hebron is a talent director and the talent leader of SGV & Co.