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Equity and Equality: Do You Know the Difference? Top Talent Does

Equity not same as equality

Even though the great resignation and layoffs have returned scores of top-notch tech workers to the job market, employers are still having trouble attracting and retaining top talent. Why? Perhaps it’s because top-notch candidates want top-notch employers, and they’re not finding what they’re looking for.

According to a survey by Gallup, one of job seekers’ baseline expectations is that a company is diverse, equitable and inclusive. And they are demanding solid evidence that a potential employer is not just “committed” to creating such a workplace but has actually done so.

Where many companies’ DE&I strategies are found lacking under close examination is in the area of equity — its impact and its importance. Being equitable means acknowledging and addressing structural inequalities – historic and present-day – that are advantageous to some and put others at a disadvantage.

[Editor's Note: See and hear more than 150 channel visionaries and experts speaking at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo. The event also features more than 375 ICT companies in the massive expo hall. Register now for the world’s largest independent channel event, May 1-4, at the Venetian in Las Vegas.]

“Are You Overlooking the ‘E’ in Your DE&I Program?” will feature a panel of DE&I leaders discussing how companies can develop and foster a genuine equity strategy. One that promotes fairness in pay, opportunities for promotion and fairness in the daily work environment. One that can help them attract and retain top talent.

Moderated by Mayka Rosales-Peterson, senior manager of partner marketing for Intelisys, the panel will include Mikaela Adolphus, partner marketing manager for Five9, Brandon Knight, global head of channel customer experience for Zoom, and Susan O’ Sullivan, vice president of U.S. diversity. Equity and inclusion for Ingram Micro.

In the following Q&A, panelists share their thoughts on how equity differs from equality and the impact that difference has in the channel and beyond.

Channel Partners: What’s the difference between equity and equality?

Mikaela Adolphus: Equity is understanding the difference between people and ensuring they have the resources and support they need for their circumstances to have an equal opportunity at success. Equality is giving every person no matter their identity the same access to opportunities and resources as those that are different than them.

Brandon Knight: Equality is giving the same opportunities and resources to every person. Equity recognizes that people are different and provides the exact resources an individual may need to become equal.

Mayka Rosales-Peterson: Equality refers to treating everyone the same regardless of their differences. It is based on the idea that every individual should have equal access to opportunities and resources without discrimination.

Equity refers to giving individuals the resources and support they need to achieve a fair outcome, based on their unique circumstances and needs. It recognizes that not everyone has the same starting point.

Five9's Mikaela Adolphus

Zoom's Brandon Knight

CF: In your opinion, in what area does equity need the most work?

MA: Equity needs to be improved in spaces of leadership and employee development — not just in our industry, but in all cooperate spaces.

BK: I believe the most work needs to actually be done in awareness and understanding of the difference between the two. Many companies pride themselves on providing equal opportunity to all employees, but it’s possible to have equality without equity.

MRP: The area that needs the most work may vary depending on the context and the specific challenges that each community or organization faces.

Many experts agree that systemic racism and discrimination are major barriers to achieving equity in various areas. For example, in the workplace, racism and discrimination can result in pay disparities, lack of career opportunities and unfair treatment of employees from marginalized communities.

Addressing systemic racism and discrimination is crucial to achieving equity in all areas of society. This requires a comprehensive effort that involves examining and challenging deeply ingrained social norms and structures, including biases and prejudices, and actively working towards creating more inclusive and equitable systems for all.

CF: When most people hear the word “equity,” they think about pay and career opportunities. What are some of the daily work experiences in which equity needs to be addressed?

Intelisys' Mayka Rosales-Peterson

Ingram Micro's Susan O'Sullivan

MA:  I believe we’re too focused on just having Black and brown folks, or women, or queer-identifying people in elevated positions without providing them with the tools, skills and teams to help them perform at the same level as their more privileged counterparts. We should be implementing opportunities for more education, training and certifications for these minorities. We also need to ensure we are providing them with an adequate support team and not expecting them to get the job done on their own when their counterparts have others to whom the workload can be distributed. We need adequate educational elevation and support personnel to ensure minorities can be successful in their roles without burning out.

BK: To me, pay/advancement is more about equality. Equity ensures that people can compete effectively for pay and advancement. Some examples of equity could be a job posting done in multiple languages, mass transportation cards/credits provided to inner-city employees, glare screens, step stools, back support, ESL courses, business management courses, time management classes, sign language interpretation to corporate meetings/events, handicap accessible buildings, etc.

MRP: Equity is a concept that goes beyond pay and career opportunities. It encompasses all aspects of work experiences, including daily interactions and tasks. Some examples of where equity needs to be addressed in the workplace are:

  • Communication: Equity in communication means ensuring that everyone in the workplace has an equal opportunity to share their ideas and opinions, and that their contributions are valued.
  • Workload: Equity in workload means ensuring that tasks and responsibilities are distributed fairly among all employees, regardless of their position, gender, race or other characteristics.
  • Decision-making: Equity in decision-making means involving everyone in the decision-making process and ensuring that decisions are made based on objective criteria rather than personal biases.
  • Professional development: Equity in professional development means providing all employees with equal opportunities for growth and development, including training, mentorship and career advancement.
  • Workplace culture: Equity in workplace culture means creating a work environment that is inclusive, welcoming and respectful of all employees, regardless of their background or identity. It means recognizing and addressing issues such as harassment, discrimination and microaggressions.

CF: How have you personally been impacted by the issue of equity?

BK: I worked for a company that provided preschool daycare on the first floor of the company. And a company that provided bus passes and tokens.

MRP: I have been impacted by the issue of equity my entire career. It is mentally and emotionally exhausting sometimes, trying to move against the grain of systemic issues and mindsets that can hinder my path. But I learned that it is important to get allies around you who understand the struggle and offer their help.

Channel Partners Conference & Expo, DE&I