Equality will forever be a myth without equity

“I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”

Stephen King

Stephen King this year demonstrated an intense ignorance when he appeared to suggest that the only factor at play in the Academy Awards nominations was… ‘quality.’

And not the fact that most people, making most of the decisions in film, are white men.

Some called King ‘part of Hollywood’s diversity problem,’ some suggested he was framing ‘quality’ as the opposite of ‘diversity.’ He later clarified his comments, but the fact remains, across all industries and sectors: women, people of colour and people with disabilities are disproportionately denied opportunities. 

Not because of a lack of equality – but because of a lack of equity.

Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. 

Equality is treating everyone the same.

If people aren't given the tools they need to succeed, then the idea of equality is bullshit.

Our entire society rewards whiteness, heterosexuality, maleness, able-bodies, Christianity… which means in the simplest of terms, these people have a head start on everyone else.

Sexism is still rife in countless workplaces. YouGov polled over 800 HR professionals and people managers recently, which revealed that 9% of male managers think men are better suited to management jobs than women. 14% of men claim male employees have better IT skills than their female counterparts. 

The fact that such sexist beliefs are still held at such high levels in the workplace makes it extremely difficult for women to be promoted, or even hired, in some cases. 

The data speaks for itself - over a quarter (27%) of female managers claim it’s “harder for women to progress in [their] organisation than men.” Only 11% of men polled agree, because, let’s face it, it’s hard to tell you’re the one actually getting “special treatment” when you’ve been getting it your whole life. 

Crucially, Joe Levenson of the Young Women’s Trust – the organisation who commissioned the poll – says that “in some cases, sexist attitudes shut women out of the workplace altogether.”

Evidently, a large number of workplaces are biased towards hiring and promoting men and perceive women as less of an asset in the workplace. Somehow, this has been normalised. Yet, the suggestion that an organisation should be biased towards hiring women is denounced – shocking, right?

“That’s not equality,” they cry - when just last year it was reported that only six of the FTSE 100 CEOs, and 37.2% of managers in the UK, were women. That doesn’t look like equality either, does it?

Legally, women are supposed to have the same access to opportunities as men. But, when a normalised culture of (at worst) sexism (and at best, unconscious bias), restricts the hiring and promotion of women, something’s gotta give. 

Women’s odds are stacked. We aren’t on a level playing field.

Amy Sun, writer at Everyday Feminism, highlights that “equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place.” This is why employers need to be more equitable if workplace gender imbalances and sexist hiring and promoting patterns are to be broken down.

We need more women on boards, as chief execs, in management roles, across every industry. Fixing the system (rather than fixing individual differences) requires positive intention.

This won’t just create a more representative gender balance across the working world, but it also means that we might stand a better chance of women being able to work – and progress – according to their capabilities and skills.  

We need to master equity in order to truly be fair. Which means identifying and acting against unconscious bias; even when it’s engrained, even when you think it doesn’t exist, even when you’re part of the problem. 

Equity today means equality tomorrow.