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Racial Equity in Your Workplace

By July 9, 2021September 6th, 2023Diversity and Inclusion

diversity and inclusion in the workplace. sign reading all are welcome and supported here.You can find the acronym “D&I” just about everywhere. Every organization wants to share their Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives with the world. It’s even in the title of this series! Today, however, we want to expand our conversation to another increasingly popular acronym, “DE&I.” One additional letter may seem like a small difference, but that single letter “E,” holds a lot of weight. That “E” incorporates the topic of Equity, but what does equity mean and how does it apply to the workplace? In this blog, we will provide an overview of equity, how it’s different than equality, and steps you can take to apply it in your company culture.

What is Equity?

Equity goes beyond increasing diversity and promoting inclusion. It seeks to promote fair treatment in access, opportunity, and advancement for all individuals.

Equity means promoting justice, impartiality, and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources in our organizations.

It often entails removing barriers and apportioning resources to allow all employees, including members of disadvantaged groups, an equal opportunity to succeed at work.

Equity vs. Equality

For decades, the focus or even goal has been equality. Take the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for example. This act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. While provisions of this act prohibited discrimination in hiring, promoting and firing, there are still many systemic issues that prevent minorities from succeeding in the workplace.

Minorities make up 32 percent of the U.S. population, yet minority business ownership represents only 18 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

equality versus equity

Equality gives the same resources to everyone, while Equity gives different resources depending on the need.

While on paper, minorities should have equal opportunities in the workplace because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, systemic racism still exists. We may not even realize its presence in our organizations.

Sometimes people think “not seeing color” is the answer to perceiving and treating everyone equally. However, acting “race blind” can actually further ignores the inequitable societal systems we live and work in.

How can we strive for equity in small businesses?

Equity may seem like an issue bigger than your start-up, but there are several steps we can take to prioritize and apply equity in our organizations.

1. Examine your organization’s culture and values

First, before diving into a potential equity program it is important to reflect on what your organization stands for. Review whether your company is being true to its mission statement and values. Now is a good time to add diversity and inclusion to your organization’s values. However, make sure you’re ready to commit time and resources to such programs. Accountability and actionable items are going to be key in helping ensure these values are present in your daily work.

open conversations about racism2. Have open dialogues with your employees

Even in small organizations, we can miss out on key issues employees are facing. Some people see race as a taboo conversation that should be left out business conversations. Similarly, others might just ignore an issue to avoid confrontations. Though having open dialogues with your employees about race and potential racism can seem daunting and uncomfortable, they are necessary. Starting these conversations are needed to identify potential causes of racism in your organization. By creating spaces where employees can discuss any issues they’re having in the workplace, you can better navigate creating a racial equity plan.

3. Identify root causes of racism in your organization

There are many ways racism can seep into an organization without anyone realizing it. For example, racism could show up as unconscious hiring biases, a lack of diversity in leadership positions, or microaggressions from coworkers that go uncorrected. There are numerous potential causes of racism in an organization. Therefore, it’s important to identify the key causes so you know how to appropriately fix them. 

equal rights is not pie4. Design a strategy to eliminate causes that are holding your employees back

It’s easy to search “best diversity training” and pick the first one but every organization is different. Your solution and strategy should be tailored to your unique company, culture and situation. This is how you’re going to create a long-term solution that will help all employees succeed. A strategy can include creating a program to eliminate potential barriers or providing opportunities to disadvantaged groups. It can also involve training all employees to change personal attitudes.


5. Dedicate resources to implement the strategy

After designing your new strategy to address racial equity in your organization, plan how to implement the strategy. Before implementing you may want to address a few key elements such as:

  • Key stakeholders who can be leaders in this initiative
  • How you will get support and focus from your employees
  • The amount of resources you will need to provide such as time, money, and energy

6. Remember that DE&I is not a fixed point

Lastly, DE&I is a continuous process. You should never stop evaluating your organization and continue striving to increase your diversity, equity, and inclusion. The work doesn’t stop after you implement your DE&I strategy, you can always improve your processes and better support your team. Above all, this is the true key to ensuring every employee has the resources to be successful in your organization.

Additional Resources:

Candid Conversations with a Black Businessman: 7 Myths about Racial Equity

5 Tips to Develop Your Workplace Race Equity in the New Year

Equality versus Equity Graphics

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