Social equity impacts all of us — and all of us can make an impact. Based on our backgrounds and identities, we’re all part of different social groups. The groups we find ourselves in can mean deep-rooted advantage, or disadvantage, in terms of access to resources and opportunities — and gaps in how we’re perceived and evaluated.
According to the UN, 71% of the world’s population lives in countries where inequality has grown. And inequalities between social groups, including those based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion and disability, are pervasive in developed and developing countries alike.
Addressing those underlying inequities requires paying closer attention, ongoing learning, and recognizing and addressing barriers with consistency and focus.
Inequities can be rooted in societal, structural, and situational dynamics, which can all carry impact in workplaces and societies and make people feel more like “outsiders” versus “insiders” at work.
For example, in some societies, people of certain backgrounds or identities may be at greater risk of discrimination, based on historically rooted dynamics. Structures that define how we live, work and operate within these societies might reinforce these dynamics, making access to opportunities uneven. And situationally through everyday interactions, these dynamics may be even further repeated or reinforced.
In our organizations, we can work to disrupt these dynamics through how we team and lead, the cultures we create, how we assign and value work, how we evaluate performance, and make advancement and appointment decisions. We have an opportunity to listen to our people’s experiences to better recognize how inequities are replicated and reinforced in often unnoticed ways.
Why action is needed now
Around the world, we’re seeing heightened social and political tensions and significant disruption. There’s also an increasing sense of polarization that’s making people feel more like outsiders.
According to the EY Belonging Barometer survey of more than 5,000 employed adults from organizations across the globe, more people feel lonely and lack a sense of belonging, which is impacting physical and mental wellbeing. Among the groups feeling most impacted are those with disabilities and the LGBT+ community — further compounding the effect of existing inequities.
Previous EY research (via EY.com US) has shown that more than one-third of workers feel the greatest sense of belonging at work, second only to home. This emphasizes the opportunity organizations have to build environments that are inclusive and equitable, given the important role they play in people’s lives.
What’s encouraging is that, over the last few years, more conversations are happening on the topic of social equity. It’s a growing expectation among employees, and companies are paying closer attention to address potential inequities — for example, applying an equity lens to processes such as pay and promotions.
Today, there’s opportunity for all of us — individuals and businesses alike — to do more to address discrimination, bias and racism directly, to help build a better working world.
What we’ve learned — the power of storytelling
Social equity is about clearing obstacles, building more inclusive environments and enabling access to resources and opportunities so everyone can thrive.