Embracing Equity: Turning Gold into Platinum
Everyone has heard of the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, but when it comes to embracing equity in our organizations or allyship work, the Platinum Rule – Do unto others as they would like done unto them, should be the guidepost by which we all live.
When we view the world through the Golden Rule, we centre our own expectations, our own experiences, and our own desires. While we may come to a conversation or a problem with good intentions, centering our own needs and experiences can lead to inadvertent exclusion, and that’s the opposite of where we want to see Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts go.
What does Embracing Equity Look Like?
Embracing Equity, the theme for the 2023 International Women’s Day, requires us to think about who is left out and how we can include them, actively, into our spaces, our communities, and our lives.
Although we may not realize it, we see equity measures everyday – automatic opening doors to help those who use mobility aids, are pushing a stroller, or just have their hands full, is an equity measure that’s so ubiquitous that we don’t even give it a second glance. Making sure we have office set-ups that support individuals with cognitive processing and/or physical challenges are becoming the norm. Identity-based mentorship opportunities are equity measures that help break down and overcome the historic underrepresentation of equity-deserving groups in many workplaces. In short, whenever we recognize that someone may need something different than what we need and we act on that knowledge, we are embracing equity.
But one of the biggest challenges to fully embracing equity in all aspects of our lives comes from our own limited experiences. We simply can’t know what everyone we encounter will need to be successful at their jobs, their hobbies, or within their communities. But we can employ measures to help us uncover what those equity needs may be.
The Platinum Rule
When we turn our focus from what we would want to what someone else needs we are decentering our own lived experiences and putting the focus on those who have been traditionally left out of decision-making processes. We build on our empathy for others, rather than notions of reciprocity (it’s good enough for me!). And we create cultures that are formed on inclusion, collaboration, and co-creation.
When we are truly embracing equity, we are meeting people where they are at and working with them to develop solutions that work for the people who need them. We’re ensuring historically marginalized people are able to use their voice and speak for themselves, rather than being spoken for.
This provides us with a unique opportunity to break down barriers and uncover hidden opportunities to make our spaces and organizations more inclusive for everyone.
How Can We Begin to Embrace Equity?
Embracing equity, particularly in a workplace, can seem daunting – how can I ever know what everyone needs?!
It all starts with creating connections.
First, take the time to understand individual preferences. Make sure you know how your team likes to receive feedback. How they like to socialize and team build. What accommodations they need to both perform their jobs and to feel included in the culture you’re actively working to build. Having a short questionnaire that new and existing employees can fill out can help make sure you’re gathering the information needed to make your spaces more equitable and your decisions more tailored to individual needs.
Second, build equity into regular one-on-one meetings. People can feel uncomfortable raising accommodation needs; it’s hard to ask your company for something and not worry that you’ll be seen as a burden. So don’t wait for people to come to you. Reach out, regularly, to see how people on your team are feeling. What else they may need. Proactively offer accommodations (maybe someone needs a flex working schedule to accommodate caregiving responsibilities – if you can support that, offer it!). Don’t let the burden of equity fall onto the shoulders of those who have already been burdened.
And finally, hold yourself and your organization accountable. Be accountable to the people you work with. Be accountable to the people you serve. Expect your organization to want to do better and take the initiative to raise issues up the line. Seek systems change wherever you can, because for every person you’ve built a connection with, there are likely many more who don’t have those pathways to equity. When you create space for equity, you create space to improve everyone’s experiences – as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats.
It’s not easy to always decenter your own experiences – it’s all we can truly know! But the effort to meet people where they’re at, understand their needs, and make positive changes in their experiences will pay huge dividends in terms of feelings of belonging and inclusion, not to mention the business benefits that come from having a supported and engaged team.
So on this International Women’s Day, we challenge you to take a moment to meet with your team or colleagues and begin the conversation about “what do you want? What do you need? How can I help?” because it’s never too early, or too late, to embrace equity and turn gold into platinum.
Canadian Equity Consulting can help! If you’re struggling with how to embrace equity or how to create change within your organization, reach out to us at [email protected] to talk about our services and how they can help your organization move from gold to platinum!