Magazine article New Zealand Management

CONSULTATION : Why Equity and Diversity Matter

Magazine article New Zealand Management

CONSULTATION : Why Equity and Diversity Matter

Article excerpt

Byline: Kevin Gaunt

I am confused between the terms equity and diversity. Can you please explain the difference, and should I be interested in either or both?

These two terms are often seen as confusing. The dictionary definition of equity states that it means treating others with justice, fairness, and impartiality. Whereas diversity is defined as a variety of something, such as opinion, colour, or style.

Equity leads to the concept of equal opportunity in the workplace and is linked closely with human rights. It covers a wide range of groupings of people. For example, people with disabilities, the sexes, age (young and older), ethnicity, and religion.

There are some hard-nosed business reasons for managers to understand the issues related to equity in their organisation. The prime one being that it is crucial in today's world that we engage the people in our organisation as fully as possible. Given high levels of education, the ability to move across local and international boundaries and the growing shortage of available people, we need to make sure we provide work environments where people want to fully commit and engage.

Equity issues arise particularly in the areas of remuneration and recruitment. So you need to make sure your managers are aware of the importance of this. It works best if the head of the organisation acts as a role model. I have seen a number of large New Zealand organisations, both public and private, where the chief executive annually reviews the broad remuneration structure of the organisation.

They look particularly for where women are being paid significantly less than men in the same job, or where young people are being paid unduly low salaries. Everyone in the organisation knows this happens and it has a remarkable impact on the attitudes of managers in recruiting and managing generally.

Diversity is closely linked to the same groups defined for equity, but this time it is not about fairness but about valuing the differences between people. If you think about some of the leadership development programmes you may have seen there is usually an exercise where a group of people have to solve a problem. The quick learning from this type of exercise is that if the leader makes all the decisions then the group may fail its task. However, if the leader enables the differing views from the group to arise and be discussed, then often the group will generate a wide range of innovative ideas and succeed. …

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