Embracing Equity this International Women’s Day
What’s the difference between ‘equality’ and ‘equity’?
The theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) this year seeks to start a conversation about why in the pursuit of inclusivity, equality of opportunity alone isn’t enough. So, what is the difference between equality and equity, and why is it important to understand this? According to the IWD website:
“Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.
Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.”
So, in simple terms, it’s the idea that not everyone starts life in the same place. Marginalised communities such as women, people of colour, and the LGBTQ+ community to name a few, all face systemic and structural barriers in life that can prevent them from progressing in society, and this is reflected in the workplace.
For women in work, embracing equity means breaking down barriers that would otherwise prevent them from having the same opportunities as their male colleagues. For example, too often working mums are forced to make a decision between having a career and caring for their children, of the 1.75 million people who have given up work to care for family, women make up 84% of that number. It’s not surprising therefore that in many industries, the amount of women in leadership roles is often much lower than the amount of men.
Take the financial services industry for instance, where the median share of female senior managers in major institutions sits at just 19%. Our colleague Jo Harris, Sales Director – UK Commercial Finance, SFS UK, wrote about this in her report into the representation of women at C-suite level in the asset finance industry. A key finding was that 43% of asset finance providers’ boards have no women members, this is despite the fact that from a pure business case perspective, diverse boards are in fact more profitable!
At SFS, we want to tackle this by not only offering our employees the flexibility to balance their home lives with work, but also by running dedicated training programmes such as our Women in Leadership programme which aims to help women progress into leadership roles. Vickie Lindsay, Head of Central Risk Infrastructure, SFS UK, a participant in the pilot programme, had this to say:
“Working for SFS was a blessing because of their attitude towards flexible working. Using regular surveys, the business continuously sought to find out what they could do differently to ensure staff well-being in this respect. I, for instance, I ended up working longer days so that I could spend Friday afternoons at home with my kids. It’s not always easy climbing the corporate ladder while being a mother – but working with a supportive team and company most definitely helps.
The Women in Leadership programme had limited availability, so working with a few people internally, we decided to build our own version of the program called the Women’s Impact Programme, which is designed to tap into women’s potential and teach them ways to help them fulfil it both in and out of work. There are seven impact pillars that the attendees focus on – Confidence, self -belief, strengths, brand, values, resiliency and work-life balance. Using a variety of methods such as coaching, masterminding, obstacles and challenges the attendees develop their own self confidence and have access to tools and methods in the long term for when challenge arises.”
This is just one example of how focusing on ‘equity’, rather than ‘equality’, can forge a truly equal and inclusive society, that not only helps to advance women and other marginalised communities, but enriches us all as a whole.
How are you embracing equity this year?
 McKinsey, Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters, 19 May 2020