February 7, 2022

What is the Difference Between Equity and Equality?

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) transverses all aspects of our society. Government and commercial organizations and schools have started focusing on building DEI strategies and implementing DEI focused programs. In June 2021, the White House signed an Executive Order promoting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce. But what is meant when we speak of equity and how does it differ from equality?


Equality refers to giving everyone the exact same resources or opportunities; whereas equity calls for fair and impartial distribution of resources or opportunities based on the needs of the recipients. When we speak or promote DEI, the narrative regarding inclusion, equality and fairness is a common theme, but equity is overlooked and substituted with equality.


The lack of equity is closely related to the differential treatment of minorities. This differential treatment is not only observable in the work environment, but we also see issues of diversity and lack of equity and inclusion in sports. An analysis of DEI in The Recreational Sports Journal recognizes the growth of diversity in sports and the responsibility to tend to the needs of diverse students (French & Cardinal, 2021). The article suggests going beyond equality and moving into an equitable space to ensure sports recognize diversity and provide programs accessible to all.


There are also issues with equity within the healthcare industry. The lack of access to healthcare and other existing disparities led to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aimed at ensuring equitable access to care and avoiding disparity in treatment within diverse populations (Watson, 2011).


Equity also plays a role in the administration of justice. Implicit bias affects routine traffic stops, police wellness checks and court sentencing. This biased baseline sheds some light as to why our criminal justice system, although touted as fair, just and equal, has some very disproportionate and disparate results skewed against certain groups.


Equity can lead to equality, but not the other way around. When developing DEI strategies and programs it is important to do the work to understand the limitations and barriers that may be preventing equality. To address the inequalities in our society it is not sufficient to just throw more equality into the mix. Organizations, processes and systems require an impartial assessment to look into the root causes of the imbalance so that the proposed solution provides equity and eventually equality.


TIVC’s mission is to help people work better together, and we are a proven leader in Human Enterprise Optimization recognizing that people are an organization’s greatest assets. TIVC was founded by Jean Payne in 2014. It is a CVE-certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business headquartered in Charles Town, WV. We have current and former contracts with government and commercial customers across the nation.



French, M.T. and Cardinal, B.J. (2021, April 1). Content Analysis of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.  Recreational Sports Journal, 69-77.

Watson, S. D. (2011). Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act: Civil Rights, Health Reform, Race, and Equity. Howard Law Journal, 55(3), 855–886.

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