Tabi on racial matters: DEI without specifically dealing with Equity is incomplete

| March 4, 2022

Equity is about providing what each individual needs at work to thrive and be their best. This means, different things will be helpful to different people. Understanding this fact is important in being able to support all your employees.

Equity is about fairness and equitable treatment, access, and opportunity. However, due to systemic inequities or systemic racism that is rooted in many structures of society, equity is difficult to achieve without consistent and dedicated efforts by leaders of businesses.

Because systemic inequities are the very fabric of society, we must first learn about it, to understand how they are constructed and maintained in systems.

Understanding Equity

According to John Adam’s Equity Theory,  depending on what you give to an organisation (inputs), you expect to get the same rewards (outcomes) as others are getting who give similar inputs. Equity says that employees view a situation as equitable when employees who give similar inputs receive similar outcomes. When rewards, access and opportunities differ for the same degree of effort, employees view the situation as inequitable.

What is vital to note here is that we live in racialised systems. So, it is important for us to name the elephant in the room, which is Systemic Racism. As a result, all systems (whether it is intentional or unintentional) has skewed systems to disadvantage all racialised groups.

This tells us that DEI work without understanding Equity or in the way in which it is cultivated to bring about fairness, makes your work incomplete.

Why Understanding Equity is important

When you develop understanding of equity, you will be equipped with the right tools to strategically cultivate it in your business operations. It is well documented that Equity theory shows that inequities (perceived or real) harm employee motivation and retention.

So, if your Employees feel that they are receiving inequitable treatment will drastically impact on them emotionally and physical. The question, leaders often avoid but critical to ask is what does inequity, the opposite of equity does to your business?

Research tells us, when inequities persist, employees may do any of the following:

  • Decrease the work and time employee put in (inputs)
  • Spend time creating ways for equal pay from the company (output)
  • Do very little to survive (survival mode)
  • Act out on other issues (become resistant)
  • Focus on reducing the outputs of others (become overly competitive)
  • Leave the organisation (Quit)

Any of the above outcomes harms your organisation and its bottom line. When ongoing turnover occurs, the loss is two-fold (economic and talent based). This should tell any organisation that equity theory determines why employee perceptions about fairness do matter.

When employees believe that the workplace is unfair, they grow to distrust organisational leadership. When leaders choose to ignore this distrust, employee morale and motivation suffers.

Demands for Equity can’t be ignored

Gone are the days when societal ills, like racism, justice and fairness stayed outside the bounds of organisations. These days with the power of social media, and its ability to lay bare “dirty laundry” publicly, organisations who chooses to ignore the need to create equity in business operations will pay the consequences and reputational damage.

But why leave your fate to disgruntled employees when you can make incremental system changes to inject equity in your operations? You can begin to sow the seeds of equity and trust in everyday operational matters. It does not require a leader to have a significant ethical lapse to bring this about there is help available, understanding equity.

For a long time, Equity theory in research depicts how employees will determine “what is fair and how they act upon their perceptions”. As a result, employee perceptions about fairness do matter–whether they are real or misguided.  It is up to leaders, CEOs, and managers to effectively address these concerns than simply ignore them.

5 ways to achieve Equity in your business

Understand inequity – develop clear understanding of Equity, including that the opposite of Equity is Inequity

See the problem – make a commitment to see the good, the bad and the ugly of Equity to make it easy to support your DEI work.

Get to the root causes – you can’t solve DEI problems if you can’t name the elephant in the room

Be equipped with the right tools – allow your understanding to help you solve all DEI problems including difficult and challenging ones.

Incorporate equity in DEI – making your DEI accessible it will make a real difference.

I’d like to end with this quote: “employees know that life is not fair, but they do expect their boss to be fair” (author unknown)