Home / The Rix & Kay Blog / #EmbraceEquity – Rix & Kay Supports IWD 2023
Georgina Hardcastle

HR Consultant - East Sussex (Uckfield)

7th March 2023

The theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023 is #EmbraceEquity. International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on 8 March and is a global awareness day working towards a gender-equal world free from bias, stereotypes and discrimination. It has been sponsored by the UN since 1975.

#EmbraceEquity

The words equity and equality are often misunderstood and used interchangeably, yet both terms are inherently different concepts. The IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme aims to get the world to understand, acknowledge and value the difference between equality and equity. Let’s start by looking at the difference between equality and equity.

Equality

Equality focuses on treating people equally and ensuring no discriminatory practices are held based on characteristics such as race, age, gender, sexuality, religion and so on. It’s about treating people fairly by giving everyone the same resources and opportunities.

#EmbraceEquity

Equity, on the other hand, is defined by the IWD as ‘giving everyone what they need to be successful. It’s not giving everyone the exact same thing. If we give everyone the exact same thing, expecting that will make people equal, it assumes that everyone started out in the same place’.

Roianne Ned, Global Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for Oliver Wyman and a leading expert in the field, explains that ‘because we’re all different human beings, we all have different identities, different backgrounds and different experiences.’ As such, equity recognises that people need to be treated differently and may need different input from their employers in order to make the workplace work best for them. Equity considers the inequality of opportunities that underrepresented groups, like women, have faced. It works to level the playing field on the basis that we don’t all start from the same place.

‘Equality is giving everyone a shoe, equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.’ (IWD).

Inclusion and Belonging

Inclusion should be thought of as a way of employers ensuring that they can give opportunities for everyone to thrive at work and to reach their full potential.

The concept of ‘Belonging’ is concerned with how employers need to eradicate the feeling of ‘onlyness’ that many underrepresented groups experience in the workplace. This refers to, for example, the feeling when you are the only woman in a management meeting and you feel that you are not being truly included or viewed by others as belonging in that meeting. Employers need to take steps to remove instances where individuals could have feelings of isolation and vulnerability in these types of situations.

Creating a truly inclusive work culture where women’s careers can thrive and their achievements are recognised is key to embracing equity in the workplace.

How can employers promote equity for women in the workplace?

Employers can take practical steps to embrace equity for women at work by building a culture of equity into their core values. Some examples include:

Providing more opportunities for flexible working, having flexi-time hours and/or considering hybrid working policies
It is well known that many women face a ‘motherhood penalty’, where working mothers experience disadvantages in the workplace in regard to perceptions of their competence, dedication and career aspiration resulting from their childcare obligations. Many working mothers consider leaving the workforce or taking a demotion after having children. Having more flexibility would help to allow, for example, mothers to play a much more active role in the corporate world.

From a personal perspective, as a mother with two school aged children, working flexible hours by way of a term-time only contract is far more beneficial to my overall health and well-being and my productivity. I don’t have to worry about childcare during school holidays or feel guilty about not spending time with my children, neither do I need to become stressed about how to fit work in as well.

Additionally, employers could consider flexible hours, such as working in the evening, depending on business needs. For working mothers, it can often be a struggle to fit in work around school runs, children being off sick, inset days, teacher strike days, etc which can lead to stress, burnout and exhaustion and in turn less productivity. Working in the evening, once the children are in bed, can, for some, be a much more productive time.

Providing opportunities for women to grow into leadership and management roles
Having meaningful platforms for career growth, such as access to professional development courses via digital learning. Ensuring that opportunities are offered in a variety of ways – and times – to ensure that more women can benefit from them, such as hosting networking events which don’t exclude women who have childcare responsibilities.

Employers must not ignore the Menopause
Supporting those going through the Menopause is key to helping women remain in the workplace and, in turn, key to embracing equity. One-to-one meetings are important for all staff but for those experiencing menopausal symptoms, this is an opportunity for them to give managers some insight into their often changing needs. In some cases, menopausal symptoms can be debilitating and have a significant impact on a woman’s work life. The support required from their employers will vary between individuals and should be tailored to individual needs to maximise their workplace participation.

Reinforcing equality, diversity and inclusion training
Non-inclusive behaviours in the workplace (such as exclusion from meetings or making women feel that they don’t ‘belong’ in all male meetings) can happen both in the office or remotely – these issues need to be addressed through training and zero-tolerance policies.

Throughout the employment life cycle, employers must take ongoing active steps to attract, develop, advance, and retain underrepresented groups, such as women. Employers should remember that ‘one size does not fit all’ and to embrace equity means to embrace everyone’s individuality and acknowledge that women may need different types of support to ensure they prosper at work.

Contact us

Rix & Kay is committed to equality, diversity and inclusivity across all its stakeholder groups and our commitment forms part of our wider ESG Objectives. The firm also provides specialist training for employers covering all areas of equality, diversity and inclusion as well as formal policy reviews and HR Audits. For more information or an informal chat about any of the issues raised in this blog contact Georgina Hardcastle, HR Consultant and member of Rix & Kay’s GatekeeperHR Team. t. 01825 744 409 e. GeorginaHardcastle@rixandkay.co.uk