Justice at the Workplace: Exploring Inequality, Equity and Equality
Article by Rose Mustakova, inspired by #ebbfmember Anousha Vahdaty
Justice is a powerful force, Baha’u’llah reminds us. How can this powerful force be applied to the structure and practices of organizations so as to strengthen them from the inside out?
How do organizations distinguish between equity and equality in the search for justice at the workplace?
Equality is the idea that because everyone has the same worth, everyone deserves the same treatment.
Equity, on the other hand, is the recognition that although everyone has the same worth, not everyone has the same reality, and people ought to be treated in a way that takes account of their reality.
For example, organizations striving towards the equality of men and women in the workplace may enforce equal pay.
But is this enough? What about policies that further support single parents or mothers of small children when they experience challenges related to childcare? Or, consider organizations that value workplace diversity.
Color blindness in the hiring process — ignoring the potential relevance of factors such as race and hiring on the basis of skillset alone — might be an ‘equal’ way to go about it, but ignores race-based differences in opportunity due to systemic racism, which is not equal.
Although the intention behind color blind hiring is to protect against discrimination and eliminate of conscious or unconscious biases in hiring, ignoring these kinds of differences means also ignoring the socio-structural factors that allow very different opportunities for different groups, and can end up perpetuating underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the workplace. Equitable treatment, therefore, may not always be equal, but it is just.
An environment of equity is one of justice. In the context of organizational management, the road to equity, and therefore justice, has been described as a continuum that begins with diversity, which leads to inclusion and results in equality.
Creating a diverse team by hiring employees of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, genders and so on serves to enrich the team and boost innovation.
When company leadership creates a culture in which these diverse employees are empowered to contribute a diversity of perspectives, an environment of inclusion is created.
When each of these perspectives are valued by leadership equally, workplace equality is achieved.
These three components, in turn, foster equity.
Therefore, equity is a sum larger than its constituent parts; the natural outcome of a continuum of intentional action towards justice on the part of organizational leadership.
Workplace equity is established when each member of a company is given the specific support they need to develop and succeed professionally.
Proverbially, we know that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Similarly, a team is only as strong as its weakest member.
Company leadership that treats employees equitably ensures that the team is strong by addressing individual needs that exist due to systemic inequalities and different life realities.
To this end, it also champions justice.
We hope that thou wilt cause the light of justice to shine more brightly.