The difference between equity and equality - and why it’s important in your recruitment process.

Posted on 29/06/2022 

by Yemi Jackson

Equality and equity in the workplace are crucial to the diversity of your workforce - most importantly when you recruit new talent. But do you really understand the difference?


So, let’s start with equality. You’re no stranger to equal opportunities at work. It means you treat people equally across the board. Part of this is recognising characteristics that are protected by discrimination law - sexuality, sex, age, religion, disability, marital status and race and putting measures in place to ensure that they remain protected in your workplace.

So far so good. But the problem with equality is this - it isn’t focussed on an outcome. If it’s working so well, why do you see fewer women and people from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds in positions of real power and influence? To address this structural imbalance, a conscious effort is required particularly when you want to address the lack of black representation at leadership level. A commitment to equality is really not enough, this is why equity is important.



Equity is giving people what they need to be successful, which isn’t necessarily giving everyone the same thing. Because it’s all well and good having equal rights for all, but all people are not starting from the same position. Many black people find themselves having to battle years of discrimination which may be impacting their self-esteem and confidence to put themselves forward. There are lots of reasons why some people are more likely to succeed than others, and it’s got nothing to do with their capability.

To use an analogy, if we all had to use the same staircase to get into work, some people are going to get to the top faster than others, because some people are physically more able. Some people are used to climbing stairs every day. Some people love the stairs and know all the other stair-dwellers that they will be stepping alongside with. And others, for lots of reasons, won’t even take the first step. In this physical scenario, we’d perhaps install a ramp or a lift. This would make the building accessible for everyone by catering for individuals’ needs. The ramp, the lift and the stairs aren’t equal treatment. But the outcome is equal success. Because everyone can get to the top of the building and get to work.


Why is this important?

In a word, diversity. As you know, a company that prioritises diversity is more representative of the population that it serves. And according to a six-year study completed in 2020 by McKinsey, diverse companies are on average 36% more profitable than less diverse companies. Equality and equity are the supporting pillars that prop up the diversity of any business - giving everyone equal opportunities to work with you and treating everyone according to their individual needs so that they have a chance at real success.

Championing equity

In practice, managing equity requires a lot of thought and consideration. People can have specific needs according to their ethnicity, race, gender, and gender identity and if they have a visible or invisible disability. But individual needs can also be based on circumstance. Understanding and allowing for difference within your workforce is key. Adjusting and tweaking your work policies to fit people’s needs comes next and can be general, like flexible work schedules, remote and hybrid working options, additional training and support  and paid family / emotional leave - or specific and tailored to an individual. Other actions need to be in place such as quotas for recruitment and retaining for leadership and entry level for ethnic groups.

Most importantly, equity in action is creating a culture at work that people feel comfortable with. It’s a culture that empowers people to succeed. And this starts at the very beginning - with your recruitment process.


Equality and equity in recruitment

In order to create a truly diverse workforce, the same principles of equality and equity need to be applied to your recruitment process. It’s not always easy to find a broad range of candidates for a new role. Often you are time-poor and find yourself using the same recruitment channels every time. This sometimes means you see the same type of candidates over and over again. It’s likely that you’ll need to review your application process and re-write your job descriptions to ensure they appeal to the right people across the board and allow for individual needs. 


Recruitment with Engage Transform

At Engage Transform, we work to eradicate gender and race bias in the recruitment process. We look for candidates from underrepresented groups and encourage them to apply for leadership roles. And we demystify the process as we go, to keep everyone in the picture.


If we only focussed on an equal opportunities recruitment process, then we’d only see certain kinds of people apply and be successful at interview. In order to achieve real equity, we have to reach out to the candidates that organisations don’t know how to reach and make sure that the application process is appropriate to them. Our clients trust us, because we find the most capable and dynamic candidates for the job. And it’s a two-way street, as our candidates trust us to match them to roles according to their experience with organisations who really champion Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

How do we do this?


1.Uniquely broad pool of candidates

We reach out through our networks and we advertise across multiple channels to find women and people from diverse backgrounds who can bring experience and influence to new roles. Our network is different to yours and it’s unlikely our candidates would find your jobs without our involvement.


2.Skills and experience matching

We have years of experience trawling through job descriptions to get to the core requirements of a role. We really get to know our clients and their company ethos. And then we match them to our candidates’ capabilities and experience.


3. Application and interview coaching

We make sure our candidates know everything there is to know about the role and the company that they are applying to work for. We want them to feel confident in the interview and that they are in the right place.


Equality and equity and your recruitment process

In summary, you want to achieve an inclusive and equal workforce so that your organisation succeeds. And so you need an equitable approach to the needs and challenges of underrepresented groups in your workforce, and your potential workforce, in order to get there. Ensuring that everyone can succeed equally will not only realise the value and ambition of your employees - it will attract diverse and talented people, and ensure that you retain them.


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