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International Women’s Day – Understanding equity vs equality in the workplace decision making.

by Justin

Devan Moonsamy

International women’s day is celebrated on the 8th of March each year. The day has been observed after around 15,000 women marched in New York City to call for shorter working hours, more pay and the chance to vote in the year 1908. A year later the first National Women’s Day was declared by the Socialist Party of America. The theme for this year’s commemoration is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.  The theme for this year focuses more on how despite the advancement in technology and the opportunities available for women, there are still forms of inequality and threats to their wellbeing online. 

At the same time, it is important to note that despite the leaps women have made in the field of technology, there have also been challenges etched in their path. Despite the accomplishments, contributions and participation in the field, there have for years been challenges with accepting and welcoming women in a field that is perceived to be for men.  Many might argue that it is time to prioritise equality in the workplace, especially in fields that are dominated by men. There is a need to understand that there is a difference between equality and equity. Equality refers to treating everyone equally. It is ensuring each person in the workplace gets the same resources and opportunities. Equity on the other hand refers to the provision of resources and opportunities to address the specific need of an individual. This is the process of assessing the situation of a person or a group and then reaching an outcome that renders them equal to others.  The difference between these 2 concepts is crucial to ensuring healthy working environments. This will aid in closing many gaps and challenges faced by staff. 

This means evaluating the situations that staff find themselves in and providing a fair method to address it. An accurate example that we can look at to showcase the need for equity in the workplace would be the concept to work from home.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, companies were seen adopting this method as a means of ensuring the wheels kept turning in the business and employees were being paid. Since the end of the pandemic, we now see more businesses having staff back at work in full force. However, if we were to apply the possibility of equity to the circumstances of our employees, we would be able to ensure a healthier working environment. If we are aware that a team member is a new mum, pregnant or in need of working from home due to their circumstances, the option to work from home can be made available to ensure they are still meeting their deadlines. The same would apply to our male staff. If they have recently become a father, require work from home to manage personal circumstances etc, provided the resources are available then the individual would be able to do this.  This circumstance generates not just equality but how having equity when making decisions will ensure a smooth workflow. There will not be animosity towards team members who might seem favoured to work from home. It will also showcase the ability we have to manage our team with the hybrid working concept. The conversation around equity is necessary with management to create better working environments for the team. Below are 3 ways to implement equity in decision making: 

  • Start by educating and informing your team around the difference between equity and equality. Use a presentation to show how the implementation of equity will see less issues around gender-based decision making. Education is key especially around cultural beliefs as well as religious needs in the workplace. This can also be adopted to the knowledge management system accessed by staff.  
  • Conduct an equity measurement survey at work. This can be useful to establishing if you are meeting or missing the mark on equity in the workplace. Asking questions to employees around their experience, whether they feel they are being treated fairly will show your concern in their experience. It will also contribute significantly to retaining staff and ensuring staff satisfaction. 
  • Look at having a more inclusive and accessible workplace for your team. Consider things like disabilities or special needs. Look at your boardrooms and office, is it wheelchair friendly for staff and clients with disabilities? It can also be looking at accommodation for breastfeeding employees needing to use a breast pump in workplace. Avoid having female staff feeling they need to pump in the bathroom which is the situation for some women in the workplace. Create a breakroom accessible to staff to meet their needs. 

Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, a South African Corporate Training Provider & National Learning Institute. He is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute. He has also graduated with his Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Majoring in Psychology and Counselling) Practice/Registration Number: CO30161 – Devan is a CCSA Registered Counsellor, Executive Coach and Psychological Safety Wellness Consultant.The ICHAF Training Institute offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.References: 

  1. https://www.instride.com/insights/examples-equity-in-the-workplace/
  2. https://www.humanrightscareers.com/issues/examples-of-equality-and-equity-in-the-workplace/
  3. https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-stories/in-focus/2023/03/in-focus-international-womens-day
  4. https://www.unwomen.org/en/news-stories/explainer/2023/02/power-on-how-we-can-supercharge-an-equitable-digital-future

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