What is Equity?
Equity is a concept that implies fairness and impartiality. It means that everyone should have an equal opportunity to access resources, rights, benefits, and opportunities regardless of their background or identity. Equity does not mean sameness or equality; it goes beyond equality by recognizing the unique needs of individuals, who may need additional support in order to reach the same level of access and opportunity as those with more privilege. It means taking proactive steps to address existing disparities and power imbalances in order to create a truly just society.
Equity vs Equality
When compared to Equality, Equity recognizes that everyone has different starting points and that some may require additional help or resources in order to achieve their full potential. This can include:
Disadvantages due to Financial Barriers
Those with fewer resources may require additional support in order to access necessary resources or opportunities. For example, students who have to work long hours in order to support their families may require additional help and support in order to have the same access to education as those who do not need to work.
Disadvantages due to Medical Barriers
Those with medical conditions or disabilities may require additional support to access resources and services. For example, people with physical disabilities may require ramps, accessible transportation, and other accommodations in order to access the same services as those without disabilities.
Disadvantages due to Socio-Cultural Barriers
Those from marginalized communities may require additional support in order to access opportunities. For example, in Canada, many indigenous communities suffer from a lack of clean water. In order to create equity in this situation, additional resources need to be allocated towards Indigenous communities in order to ensure that all Canadians can access the same level of clean water.
While equality implies that all people should have the same access and opportunities, regardless of their background or circumstances. Equity seeks to create balance and fairness by understanding individual needs and addressing existing disparities in order to ensure that everyone has the same chance for success.
The differences between equity and equality can be best demonstrated through the above picture. A fence obstructs the view of a group of children from seeing a baseball game.
The left side of the image shows what Equality looks like: everyone is given the same resources, regardless of their circumstances. In this case, the children are all given a box, but because the boxes are not tall enough for all of them to see over the fence, some cannot actually see the game.
The middle image shows what Equity looks like: the children are given different resources based on their individual needs. In this case, one child is given a box, while the other is given two boxes. All three children can now view the game.
The right image shows the removal of barriers. In this case, the fence is removed and all children can now see the game. This is what society should strive for: the removal of obstacles that prevent individuals from achieving their full potential.
How do We Implement EDI?
Equity is the responsibility of all of us – individuals, organizations, governments, and society as a whole, especially those in leadership positions such as government, public institutions, and professionals. In order to create equity in our communities, we must first understand existing power structures and systemic inequalities. We then need to take proactive steps to address these issues.
For example, in the past, women were unable to access the same educational opportunities as men. In order to address this inequality, governments and institutions created specific policies and initiatives, such as affirmative action programs, in order to ensure that women had access to the same opportunities.
Equity can look similar, or different, depending on the context. This can include:
- Creating policies and legislation that support marginalized groups
- Supporting community programs that focus on the needs of disadvantaged communities
- Providing targeted resources and opportunities for those who need it most
- Advocating for equitable access to services and opportunities
- Challenging discriminatory practices or policies
Some examples of this in action include the actions of medical schools in Canada. The University of Western Ontario, for example, has implemented an ACCESS admissions pathway which seeks to support applicants who may have been potentially adversely impacted by circumstances that created a disadvantage due to financial, medical, and/or socio-cultural barriers.
In conclusion, Equity is key to creating an inclusive society where everyone has equal access to resources and opportunities. It acknowledges the many intersecting factors that can impact an individual’s access to power and resources, such as race, gender, class, ability/disability status, age, sexual orientation and education. In order to create equity in our communities, we need to actively work towards understanding existing disparities and creating targeted policies and initiatives that address these issues. By doing so, we can create a society where everyone has the same chance of success.