The “E” is for Equity

Many of us in the DEI space receive pushback from those who believe that working to achieve equity is actually a negative thing. 

The “E” in DEI is equity. It is not Equality.  This is usually where the problem begins.  

Straight, white, able-bodied males (the most privileged of us all) have a difficult time understanding the difference. For some of them, there is a belief that those from marginalized communities simply need equal opportunities. For them, the vastly different lived experience of those individuals are irrelevant. 

Recently I received an email from a white straight male accusing me of spreading hate and racism simply by working towards equity for those marginalized groups. This is not unusual and the writer is not an outlier. There is enough of such sentiment out there that it will take a big effort to overcome. 

Equality means that people are treated the exact same way regardless of that individuals needs. This favours the dominant domain for obvious reasons. For example a wheelchair user doesn’t have the same outcome if faced with a set of stairs. Equity on the other hand means that everyone is provided with what they need to succeed. In the case of the wheelchair user, a ramp. 

Those who argue against this usually hold the most privilege. They are scared, scared that more rights for others means less rights for them. 

It’s not a pie, it’s not a pizza. More rights for the marginalized does not mean less rights for you. 

Equality won’t get us anywhere. “We are an equal opportunity employer” is a sign often displayed with job postings. It is one of the reasons the unemployment rate for the disabled is 50-70%. If a deaf or blind person has “equal” rights, they basically have no chance at all. 


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