The Resurgence Of Equity

The Resurgence Of Equity

Nurturing a culture where everyone feels at home and contributes unrestrictedly towards common objectives and goals and working collaboratively with each other are the imperatives to enable Equity.


Not many leaders and managers still understand the definitions, intentions, and/or consequences of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity. While diversity and inclusion have been talked about for long, the resurgence of racial attacks and the birth of movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo have of late emphasised the critical need of Equity in our world and lack thereof. Diversity is most talked about by the management, and quite often, misunderstood by everyone across the organisation!


It is not very unusual to find the leadership being pre-occupied with business priorities, and least engaged or involved at a strategic level on any of the diversity initiatives. Usually, the purpose of diversity is not clearly articulated beyond establishing some operational targets of recruiting and promoting diverse talent. Systematic knowledge about the means to cultivate and permeate an equitable environment for everyone involved to ensure performance at the optimal level is almost non-existent and incomplete at best. Many companies make the mistake of assuming that diversity and inclusion are synonymous or that one automatically implies the other. And this mistake is arguably a very risky one. Another huge fallacy is that DEI is an HR issue and that it can be resolved by recruiting a lot of diverse talent.


Having operational plans and dedicated resources in place to achieve a variety of diversity targets is merely the first step.


Nurturing a culture where everyone feels at home and contributes unrestrictedly towards common objectives and goals working collaboratively with each other are the imperatives to enable Equity.


“Equality is Equity” is quite a common misperception. Merely asking everyone to participate is not enough to be inclusive. Creating an equitable environment begins with establishing the platforms, and offering comprehensive options to attract and include everyone voluntarily. It is essential to encourage intentional participation and wilful engagement to ensure performance at their fullest potential. This includes extending the right support as and when needed beyond the unrestricted access to the right opportunities.


Hostility can arise because of conflicting goals and competition over limited resources. Conflict theory explains how intergroup hostility could pose a threat to establishing successful organisational diversity. Performance appraisal systems, along with reward and recognition mechanisms that induce competitive behaviour amongst team members may further aggravate the conflict, and thereby, the hostility. Groups may be in competition for real or perceived scarcity of resources such as money, power, security, or social status. Feelings of resentment can arise in the situation, in which only one group will emerge as the winner and the other loses. It is important for the leadership and HR teams to be wary of such conflicting dynamics that are either prevailing or freshly brewing, and take the necessary steps to prevent the creation of such conflicts and allow equitable access to growth and development opportunities. Organisations are built-on and attached to the communities to which their employees belong.


The racial makeup of employees’ communities affects the attitudes toward diversity in the workplace. Conflict theory provides an explanation to this pattern, because, in communities of mixed races, members of minority groups are competing for economic security, power, and prestige with the majority group. Conflict theory can help explain discrimination against different ethnic and racial groups.


Diversity Few dimensions that have been traditionally used to track diversity are age, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, biological sex, physical abilities/disabilities, and other qualities. It is a mix of both visible and invisible traits. A more comprehensive definition of diversity also includes the diversity of thought: ideas, perspectives, and values. Considering such a broad definition of diversity, no two individuals within the same race, religion, community, or even a family are the same. Each member of the team is uniquely different and adds to the overall diversity of the group. Besides, cultural diversity goes deeper and beyond the colour of the skin and other externally visible or physical attributes.


Each one of us has a diversity lens through which we view and perceive the world. This lens classifies each subject we view across a full spectrum of human differences like values, thinking style, vocabulary, education, own/rent, marital status, family size, title, socioeconomic status, experiences of both work and life, hobbies, occupation, personality, geographic location, friends, neighbourhood, religious beliefs, birth order, political views, perceptions, accent, legal speciality, military experience, citizenship, background, affiliations, and many more. These differences are not subtle and failing to understand these differences can be a grievous and potentially costly error. If not driven holistically with an articulated purpose and outcomes, the focus on diversity alone can be tantamount to being a facade, kind of posturing for the external world.


Diversity is like an orchestra wherein you have different people playing different instruments altogether, all of them making beautiful sounds independently.

But they must be coherent and in harmony to make melodious music. This is where inclusion and equity come into play - being mindful, respectful, and appreciative of each other. Akin to every team member, every instrument has unique attributes and has a distinct role to play at a specific time on a specific track to compose melodious music. If all the instruments are played simultaneously and at equal loudness, the outcome would only be a disaster. It must be equitable, not equal!


People with different experiences look at things from differing points of view. They could potentially bring a unique approach to problem-solving, increasing revenue, educating audiences, or whatever the organisation’s mission is. Organisational leaders must be clear about the purpose and objective of diversity. They must be honest and committed to inclusivity as it requires a lot of work. But if we want diverse companies, classrooms, industries, movements, and the people involved in these spaces to thrive, it is certainly worth the effort. DEI is most successful when such initiatives are correlated and even better connected to the business outcomes and results.




The typical human tendency to prefer those who think, work, feel and act like themselves, and hence, end up hiring them is the silent killer of diversity. The human brain is known to mentally group things to help make sense of the world. From the point of view of survival, this mental grouping into good or bad helped the brain make quick decisions about what was safe or not safe and what was appropriate or not appropriate. It was a developed survival mechanism hard-wired into our brains - this makes it far more difficult to eliminate or minimise than originally thought.


Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one’s conscious values. This is a real problem! Certain scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs. Although we talk about diversity and inclusivity and conscious explicit bias, organisations do not sufficiently train their workforce in recognising and acknowledging implicit and ingrained cultural and social conditioning that can affect their decision-making and attitudes towards others. Unconscious Bias can sometimes become ingrained in an organisation’s policy structures and work practices. It can also be a result of certain policies implemented by the organisation in the past. Also, feelings of prejudice, attitude, and discrimination amongst the workforce may have been formulated during their childhood.


Not only is it counter-intuitive, but it is also preposterous to hire diverse talent and yet not be able to completely engage and derive the full value of their contributions due to some prevailing unconscious bias. It is a sheer waste of talent. The illusion of objectivity allows us to believe that we are free of biases that we recognise in others. By providing proper awareness training and putting processes and structures in place that identify unconscious biases, organisations can take positive steps to minimise these biases that can impact every aspect of an organisation. The task of rooting out and addressing the identified unconscious biases like affinity bias, halo effect, perception bias, confirmation bias, and groupthink (the most popular one being the Abilene paradox) however daunting, is the most critical step towards establishing an environment of equity.




Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving Equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources.


An organisation that prioritises Diversity, Equity and Inclusion creates an environment that respects and values individual difference along varying dimensions. Also, inclusive organisations foster cultures that minimise bias and recognise and address systemic inequities, which, if unaddressed, can create a disadvantage for certain individuals. This is not just a human resources issue, but a strategic business issue. These efforts should be reflected in the organisational mission, vision, and values; incorporated into strategic plans; and cascaded throughout the organisation. Different organisations, societies, and individuals have different perceptions of what is equitable, and these organisational, social, and cultural norms shape the policies they will adopt to establish and promote equity. Equity issues are extremely complex because they are interdependent and influenced by social, organisational, or individual values. Serving equal and the same quantity of food to everyone is not equitable as some may find that portion to be more than what they need to subside their hunger while few others might find it to be inadequate. Similarly, providing equal access to opportunities is not equitable as few might need more support than the others. Equity is not about entitlement but is about fairness.


Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society and a sustained commitment to yield lasting results. Establishing and realizing a culture of equity is easier said than done! Equity is the end goal - Diversity is just the first step and inclusivity is the means to that end.




 If diversity is the vegetation planted in a garden, equity is the nutrition in the soil and inclusion the soil that nourishes the plant and allows it to thrive. Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group, regardless of their background, can be and feel welcomed, respected, included, integrated, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people along with fair access to opportunities and resources. It is important to note that while an inclusive group is diverse by definition, a diverse group is not always inclusive.


 Increasingly, recognition of unconscious or implicit bias helps organisations to be deliberate about addressing issues of inclusivity. Diversity does not mean much without Inclusion. Diversity and Inclusion are so often lumped together that they are assumed to be the same thing. But that simply is not the case. For example, while adding women to the board or promoting more people of colour might enhance Diversity, it does not necessarily change the culture of the organisation or ensure that these underrepresented groups will feel fully included and valued. Diversity speaks to who is on the team, but inclusion focuses on who is really in the game.


Environment breeds behaviour and leadership is accountable for creating and fostering the environment that ensures equity. If the behaviour of the people is wrong or falling short, nine out of ten times, it is the leadership’s fault and not of the people. There are no bad students, only bad teachers. Equity is the spirit of both Diversity and Inclusivity!



Dr. Moorthy K. Uppaluri is the former CEO and MD - Randstad India, a global business leader, an angel investor and advisor to early-stage startups. With vast domestic and international experience across diverse sectors like IT, manufacturing, and professional services, Moorthy is credited with evolving business strategy, building brands, growing market share, improving operational excellence, driving innovation and fostering a people-centric culture. He is also a featured author and an eminent speaker.


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