Equality vs. Equity: The Importance of Knowing the Difference

The terms ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ are often used interchangeably within the workplace, but do they mean the same thing? The simple answer is no, and while both play a key role in improving workplace culture, they have very distinguishable outcomes when it comes to putting them into practice.

Equality refers to providing fairness and justice in an equal amount, therefore giving everyone the same level of resources.

Equity on the other hand provides fairness and justice by recognising that not everyone starts from the same place. Through that acknowledgement we can make adjustments to distribute resources to those that need them most.

The Fence Analogy

Look at the images below. In the first scenario, three children of varying heights are trying to see over a fence during a football match. The tallest child has no problem seeing over the fence, but the other two are too short, which means they are missing out on seeing the game being played.


In the second scenario, boxes are distributed equally, with each child given a single box to stand on. The tallest child can still see regardless of the new box, and the middle child can now see over the fence, however the shortest is still too short, despite all the boxes being the same height. 


In the final scenario, the boxes have been redistributed equitably. The tallest child does not need a box to stand on. It has instead been given to the shortest child, so now they have two boxes to stand on. All three children can now see over the fence and therefore, no one must miss out.  


This is the most common analogy used to distinguish equity from equality. It is not a perfect analogy by any means (one could argue that the main problem in all three scenarios is the fence itself), yet it serves as a basic reminder as to how equity and equality work. Whilst the offering of the boxes to all three children was good intentioned, it nevertheless failed to provide everyone with the same outcome. Alternatively, by acknowledging that the children had different needs, the appropriate adjustments were made to ensure that the boxes were given to the two that needed them most, plus additional support where necessary for the third child.

Delivering Good Outcomes

Consider how this principle can be applied when providing products and services to customers. Not every consumer is going to have the same needs, and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that will provide everyone purchasing the same product or service, with exactly the same outcome. This is a key concept of the Consumer Duty. Recognising where a consumer requires additional support proportionate to their needs, can help to ensure good outcomes for all, regardless of their circumstances.

The same can also be applied internally within workplace culture. If members of your staff are unhappy because they are not receiving the right levels of support, they may become less productive, stressed, or may seek opportunities elsewhere. As part of Diversity and Inclusion measures, it is important to ensure that your organisation has a flexible and inclusive culture, where everyone feels valued and appreciated. A happy team is usually a productive team after all!

Having equality in the workplace may include ensuring that employees have access to equal wages regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and so on. It may also include access to identical policies such as holiday entitlement, sick pay, or parental leave. Equity on the other hand would include providing employees with the right resources they need to advance and excel in their career, even if some require more or less than others.

Equality and Equity mean completely separate things, despite both having the same intentions of achieving fairness. Knowing the difference will help firms determine that they are providing the right levels of support to their customers as well as their staff.

RWA has launched a Consumer Duty gap analysis to help firms implement the new rules and guidance. If you would like more information about this or require any assistance in relation to the new Consumer Duty, please contact your RWA Business Manager or get in touch via email at helpdesk@rwagroup.co.uk or by calling 01604 709509.

Alternatively, if you would like advice on implementing this principle in your workplace or any other HR-related matter, please contact the team at IHRS by visiting Get in touch | Insurance HR Solutions.

About the author

Jessica joined RWA in 2018, having graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Film Studies. Her role as a content designer involves developing new and engaging e-learning modules as well as assisting in the creation of articles for Insight. 

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