Did you know that in addition to being a leadership coach, speaker, and trainer, I’m an adjunct professor? I teach in the master’s degree program for the College of Education because I love supporting the aspirations of future leaders!
I usually teach several leadership courses during the year. While I enjoy every class I teach, I really enjoy facilitating the internship course, which requires my students to complete several curriculum assignments and 100 hours of organization-based leadership duties.
Throughout the class, we discuss many different situations that leaders face every day. It’s always interesting when aspiring leaders step out of their regular duties and assume leadership responsibilities.
During a recent session, one student raised a topic many organizations are finding very challenging. So, what was the topic? How do organizations distinguish between equity and equality?
“Great leaders value people equally and treat people equitably.”– John Maxwell
Because I’m facilitating the learning process, I encouraged the class to discuss the question. Unfortunately, the students could not clearly define the differences between equity and equality, much to my surprise, even though they had several research articles on the topics.
After several minutes of discussion, I asked the class to put on their “teacher” hat and imagine discussing the topic with their students. Then, I asked them where would they start? One student astutely stated that we need a common starting point. Another student said we needed to define the terms. So, that’s what we did.
According to Merriam-Webster:
- Equity is fairness or justice in the way people are treated
- Equality is the quality or state of being equal: having the same rights, social status, etc.
Now, let’s take a different perspective by converting the definitions into two simple questions:
- Equity asks: Who is trying to get into the room but can’t?
- Equality asks: Are we treating everyone exactly alike?
Once we established a common understanding of the terms, we shifted our discussion to how leaders create environments that value equity and equality.
Leaders must understand equity and equality are not the same.
Equality requires leaders to treat everyone the same despite their individual needs. Therefore, everyone would get the same resources and opportunities.
Equity acknowledges that each person is unique and may need different resources and opportunities to level the playing field.
Although the concept of equality sounds good, human beings are not the same. Equity is reflected in our policies and procedures because they determine “who is in the room.”
“Equity changes variables to help the individual have a chance at success.”-John Maxwell
As a leader, you set the tone for your organization. It’s your responsibility to provide the resources and opportunities for individuals to be successful.
Does your organization value equity and equality?
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