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Equality Vs. Equity: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

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The terms equality and equity may sound similar, and are sometimes (incorrectly) used interchangeably. 

Making a distinction between the two is integral to our business goals here at Recite Me. So, we are taking a deeper look into both terms and how equality and equity factors can affect you, your organisation, and the customers and communities you serve. 

What is the difference between Equality and Equity?

Equality means giving everyone the same resources or opportunities.  Whereas equity goes the extra step, by recognising that every individual is unique. Being equitable means accounting for varied circumstances and allocating the resources and opportunities each person needs to receive an equal outcome.

Put simply, equity means understanding that not everyone starts out in the same place, and making adjustments for fairness based on individual needs. We tend to think of ‘being fair’ in terms of giving everyone the same thing. But, very rarely does that work out.  

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Equality Definition

Equality is about ensuring that each individual is given an equal opportunity and is treat in a fair manner.

Furthermore, equality believes that no one should have poorer opportunities because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.

Equality recognises that historically certain groups of people with protected characteristics such as disability, race, sex and sexual orientation have experienced discrimination.

Equity Definition

The term “equity” refers to fairness and justice.

Equity recognises that some people face adverse conditions and circumstances making it more challenging with the same effort to achieve the same goals.

Equity advocates for those who may have been historically disadvantaged, making it difficult for them to be successful. Taking into account historical and other outside factors in determining what is fair.

Equality and Equity in Pictures

It’s often much easier to see the difference between equality and equity visually than explain it in words. You’ve probably already seen some of the most famous graphics of equity vs equality:

Three people are picking fruit from opposite sides of the same tree. However, the tree is leaning to one side, so although both individuals have equal access, it’s much harder for one to access the fruit than the other. Equity is providing a taller ladder on one side, or propping the tree up so it’s at an angle where access is equal for both people. 

Illustration showing the difference between equality and equity as per the example with ladders needed to reach a tree

A line of people of different heights are watching an event from behind a fence. Equality is giving each person a box to stand on to get a better view. Equity is giving each person a box of the right height for their stature, so they all get the same view.

Illustration showing the difference between equality and equity as per the example with standing on a box to see over a fence

These are great examples to get you thinking. However, they are perhaps not the most practical examples, as they don’t address systemic and structural barriers faced in the real world. So, let’s look at some real-world alternatives.

Equity Vs. Equality in Practice

When organisations push for equality-based solutions rather than adapting services and policies to meet individual needs, they fail to consider the diverse lived experiences of individuals and communities. Regardless of whether you work in the public or private sector, your staff, customers, and clients will all be affected by equity factors in one way or another. Here are a few examples from a business perspective that help achieve fairness.

Examples of Equity in the Workplace

Equity in Services 

Imagine you’re a local council that needs to manage a funding cut by reducing the operational hours of community centres in your area. An equality-based approach would simply mean cutting the opening hours at each centre by the same amount. An equity-based approach would involve researching how many hours each centre is used for, and reducing hours more in locations where community use is less frequent.

Equity in the Community

Let’s say you’re a private sector company distributing marketing materials about a new product or service, or a public sector organisation publicising new community initiatives. You give the same materials to everyone, but 30% of the residents in your area don’t read English as a first language. To be equitable and provide everyone with the same information, you’d need to print/email the information in other languages too. 

Equity in Education

Students from all backgrounds should have equal education opportunities, from early childhood through to tertiary training. You might think equal learning opportunities means having computer labs with the same number of computers and operating hours for each school. However, a more equitable approach would be to operate longer opening hours and have more computers and printers at schools in lower-income neighbourhoods where students are less likely to have the resources they need at home. 

Equity in the Online World

The information on your website is unlikely to be accessible or inclusive of everyone, because no uniform solution can account for variations in individual needs. To provide equitable online experiences for people with varied physical, cognitive, neurological, and linguistic differences, you need to utilise accessibility software like our website accessibility toolbar. Comprising customisation options so website visitors can make their own decisions about how they use your website, our assistive toolbar helps you to provide equitable online experiences for everyone. 

Online Accessibility and Inclusion Toolkit

This year we published our Digital Inclusion Toolkit that was developed to help businesses make a real difference to the lives of the millions of people around the world who encounter online barriers. The 40 page document provides practical advice covering the complete landscape of online accessibility from how to write an accessibility statement to our top tips for providing an inclusive recruitment journey.

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Encouraging Equity and Inclusion in 2024

Understanding the difference between equity and equality is crucial in reducing disparities within our workplaces, homes, and communities. 

Join us in our mission to promote equity and create an inclusive world. When you actively support and embrace equity within your own sphere of influence, you help drive positive change that leads to more equitable solutions for everyone in our modern-day society. 

Want to learn more about the Recite Me toolbarGet in touch with one of our team today, try it for yourself, or schedule a free demo to learn more about how harnessing the power of tech for good can provide a more equitable online experience for your customers, clients, and supporters. You can also try our website accessibility checker for free today.

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