Inclusion vs. Equity

In the conversation around the diversity of our organizations, we are often confused by the terms Inclusion and Equity.  My wise colleague Chris Macon likes to illustrate the difference with the metaphor of bleachers at a sporting event.  Let’s take a closer look.

If the fans in the bleachers represent the people in your organization, we can take a snapshot of everyone in their seats.  As you study the photo, do you see everyone represented? Is there a representative number of females (51% of the U.S. population)? What about people of color (38%)?  If the headcount of those two categories (race and gender) matches national statistics, then your organization is Inclusive.  That is, people are included in numbers representing the population.*

If most of the best seats—the ones in the front—are filled with whites and with males, then your organization is not Equitable.  The seats down in the front are the most expensive and represent the highest-paid workers.  Seat position represents power and seniority.  The seats at the top of the bleachers represent the lowest paid workers.  They also represent the last hired and the first to be fired in a downturn.  Take note of who is seated there.

Within your organization, who has access to the better seats and, therefore, has access to decision making?  If your snapshot is inclusive but not equitable, it’s time to ask what obstacles are in place that limit everyone’s access to the good seats.  Is your company, your school, or your nonprofit ready for the hard questions?  If so, give me a call so we can begin that conversation.

*Note: There are several elements of diversity not discussed here: age/generation, physical ability, sexual orientation, etc.  Some of these are visible in photographs, and some are not. These categories will add to your inclusion and equity conversation!