Equity is when people’s race, gender, economic status, sexual orientation, etc. do not determine their economic, social, or political opportunities. Distinct from equality, equity looks at leveling the playing field, ensuring the starting line does not determine where one finishes. Approaching work through an equity lens requires analyzing the impact of internal and external processes, as well as foundational assumptions and interpersonal engagement, on marginalized and under-served individuals and communities.
There are many excellent resources that more fully explain equity, give examples of inequities and processes used to achieve greater equity, and explore the impact of inequities on people’s lives.
- PolicyLink uses community engagement to “create sustainable communities of opportunity”. The site provides information on equity issues, as well as tools, resources, news, and ways to get involved.
- Racial Equity Tools has tools, research, curricula, and ideas for individuals and groups looking to increase their understanding of equity, as well as to take action to achieve social justice.
- Race Forward is an online hub for research, tools, and information on advancing racial justice.
- The Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race and Equity is a national network of governments working to achieve racial equity. Their tools and resources page provides resource guides and actionable tools for eliminating disparities.
When groups approach a process through an equity lens, the core question they are asking is: How does the system need to change to decrease inequities and increase equity? At Spark, we strongly believe the inclusion of diverse perspectives is key to achieving these changes: Effective and sustainable systems change can only happen when the people impacted by the change are included and inequities are addressed openly and proactively.
This toolkit is not an A-Z guide to integrating an equity lens in a process; rather, it provides highly-actionable tools groups can use at each stage of their process, from engaging diverse perspectives, to collecting data, to developing and implementing solutions. Maybe your group has done extensive work around equity, and is looking for tools to take the work to the next level, or maybe your group is recognizing the need to take more action on this front. Regardless of where your group is in this process, and even if your project or process is already underway, the tips, checklists, worksheets, and other tools in this toolkit can help you think concretely about how equity can be infused throughout your work at each stage. Importantly, we recognize this may not be a linear process, and that your approach or path may vary depending on the issue you are addressing and your group’s level of readiness.
Equality v. Equity: Although equality and equity are often used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two. In the simplest terms, equality equals sameness, whereas equity equals fairness. While equality is often likened to fairness, equal treatment does not result in equal access when everybody is different; when individuals are denied knowledge or income, or are excluded because of race or other characteristics, they face barriers to access needed to achieve fairness.
Diversity v. Inclusion: Similarly, diversity and inclusion are related, but distinct terms. Diversity is simply what makes us different from each other, whether these differences are immutable characteristics or not. The practice of diversity is ensuring a representation of these different characteristics. Inclusion, by contrast, is deliberately creating a culture acceptance of diversity, one in which people feel comfortable enough, and empowered, to participate. In other words, diversity is being asked to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.
Implicit bias refers to biases that exist outside our level of conscious awareness, but are developed through the course of our lives in response to messaging, stereotyping, and experience. They are different from explicit biases that individuals may try to conceal in that they operate outside of our level of intentional control, but nevertheless affect perception and judgments that lead to actions.
- Project Implicit is an online tool that helps reveal individual implicit biases, as well as providing consulting, training, and education on implicit bias, diversity, and inclusion, and applying science to practice.
- The American Library Association has a good summary of the difference between equality and equity, and why the difference matters.
Integrating equity into processes is essential to effect positive and sustainable change, but it is important to recognize the existence of institutional “isms” and bias and the effect this has on outcomes, as well as on how problems are addressed at the outset. While this toolkit is designed to help individuals and organizations address issues of equity in their processes, we also recognize that this can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Addressing the issue of equity head-on, however, is an important first step to address and dismantle institutional “isms” and bias.