“Equality” and “equity” are common buzzwords in the business and nonprofit world. 

They’re a key part of diversity and inclusion initiatives that seek to make workplaces more diverse and more productive, innovative, and competitive. Without an understanding and commitment to equality and equity, DEI strategies are much less likely to succeed. 

How are equality and equity defined? What do they look like in a work setting?

Workplaces shouldn’t just be diverse; they must also be more inclusive. All employees should feel valued and empowered. This is equality. 

Everyone feels supported, respected, and on equal standing within their department. Everyone understands what’s expected of them and how they will be recognized. If a company has done this groundwork and equality is part of its culture, equity is most likely already present, but not necessarily. 

What is equity exactly? How is it different from equality?

Difference Between Workplace Equity & Equality 

Workplace equity and equality are often used interchangeably, but they mean different things. 

Equality ensures employees access to identical policies, while equity gives employees the tools they need to succeed, even if those tools differ from person to person. 

While equality is great, equity levels the playing field, which means addressing discrepancies and ensuring all employees have what they need to succeed. Employees have different needs. 

If a company treats everyone the same without realizing that certain teams or demographics need specific support or resources, there will be inequality. Equity requires organizations to be adaptable and willing to work with their employees to ensure everyone’s success. Equity is the pathway to true equality.

Examples of Equality in the Workplace

Workplace equality means all associates receive the same treatment without discrimination due to factors such as:  

Race or ethnicity




Sexual orientation


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enshrines these protections in federal law. 

Some of the most common examples of workplace equality are easy to see. They can be as simple as evening differences in pay between people who do the same (or similar) jobs. 

Another example of workplace equality involves creating policies that apply to all associates evenly. This could mean creating a PTO (Paid Time Off) policy where all employees receive the same amount of time off, regardless of needs or other accommodations.

How to Promote Equity in the Workplace

Promoting equity in the workplace often involves concrete steps and complex choices. It is not as simple as designating a sole employee responsible for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. 

Let’s say achieving “50% of women in leadership” is part of your mission statement for the next fiscal year. By proactively taking steps toward equity, companies would have a better chance of reaching this goal.

To boost your chances of reaching that mark, hiring managers would focus on recruiting female leaders; leadership and development professionals could outline new leadership development tracks for women; and you could redesign your benefits package to support women across their career trajectory. 

Organizations need to be open to trying different practices to reach outcomes.

Here are a few examples of steps that can increase workplace equity.   

Access to Applications

Despite how it may seem, not everyone has ready access to a desktop computer. Ensure that the application process is as mobile-friendly as possible and that any application materials pass basic accessibility tests for users.

Provide Equitable Benefits

Equal benefits for all associates may seem like a good idea, but it ignores that some employees may need different benefits to do their best work. The primary way to offer equitable benefits to an entire company is to provide employees with choices. 

Allowing employees to personalize some of their benefits can increase agency among the team. In addition, offering choices to employees about their working conditions can help reduce friction. Consider the following:

Flexible working hours

Flexible working locations

Flexible Paid Time Off structures

Choice of health insurance benefits

Equipment stipends, including accessibility aids

Implement a Mentor Program

Why focus on mentorship? Connecting new hires with experienced professionals allows them to develop relationships early and gain vital insight into their roles. An inclusive and equitable mentorship approach goes beyond the traditional private mentorship model. It utilizes active sponsorship from trusted leaders. 

Hire Based on Skills & Experience

In a perfect world, skills and experience alone would be the primary basis for hiring decisions. But we know that is not always the case. A company with an equity focus should first make hiring choices that look specifically at skills and experience.

What this means in practice is to evaluate employees and new hires with an eye to what they can accomplish, not where they previously worked. The key to this approach is to test prospective employees appropriately.

Offer Inclusive Incentives

One of the best ways to increase diversity and equity across an organization is to tie incentives to meeting benchmarks for DEI initiatives. Make voluntary DEI training more attractive by tying promotions, pay raises and desirable work assignments to participation in these behaviors.

Sources:  Linkedin News, HumanRightsCareers.com and spiceworks.com.