A Guide to Equity on Teams: What It Is and Why It Is So Essential Now

Making offices more wheelchair accessible. Hiring interpreters to help foreign-language speakers during a conference. Supporting adequate parental leave for both men and women. These are just some of the many ways that teams can practice equity. 

Equity is a term that has been getting a lot of attention in the business and HR worlds recently. You may have seen this word as part of the more broader trifecta of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”, sometimes abbreviated as DEI. 

However, equity is more than just another trendy corporate term to flash at conferences. As the examples above show, there are real, positive consequences to equity on teams. More fundamentally, equity demonstrates that relationships on teams matter and are valued. 

So in this blog post, we’ll dive into what equity means and its connection to diversity and inclusion. We’ll also discuss why equity is so crucial right now, especially for remote and hybrid teams, and how team building can help you promote equity on your team.

What is equity? 

First, let’s start by defining what equity is. Equity means ensuring that everyone has access to resources that will ensure their success. On a team, this means access to things like time off, training and development, mentorship opportunities, and support. 

It also means addressing any barriers that exist that prevent team members from fulfilling their roles. What this means in practice is that an individual’s circumstances have to be taken into account when promoting equity on a team. Physical disabilities, mental health, and language differences, for example, are all part of individuals’ circumstances. But they can also be supported by the rest of the team through equity, so that all team members feel valued and able to produce their best work.  

Equity vs. equality 

This brings us into the distinction between equity and equality. These two words can often be bundled together, so it might be useful to investigate them more closely and see how they are different.

Equality essentially means treating all employees the same, and giving them the same amount of access to opportunities and resources. This is a good thing in general. However, as we demonstrated above, sometimes particular circumstances means that not all employees are actually the same.

In other words, the point of distinction is that equity looks at individual circumstances as well, and tries to find solutions whereby each individual member feels supported based on their own needs. Let’s take a very common example to illustrate what we’re talking about: new employees. When a new member enters the team, they should have access to the same resources as other members and be treated the same, yes. But that alone discounts some of the difficulties of entering a new team.

Many new employees need additional training or skill development to get them on the same page. They also may benefit from mentoring by veteran employees, who can show them the ropes and lend them emotional support and professional advice. 

So while equality lays a solid foundation in terms of access to opportunities, equity provides the support beams that allow the unique structure that is your team to stand strong. 

How equity interacts with diversity and inclusion

Since they are often grouped together, it’s important to talk a bit about how equity is related to diversity and inclusion as well.

Here are some definitions before we dig in:

  • Diversity: Refers to the ways that people on a team are different in terms of ctaegories like age, sexual orinetation, gender identity, ethinicity, race, socioeconomic status, etc. as well as ideas and experiences. Diversity is about bringing in as many people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives as possible.
  • Inclusion: Refers to building a culture where everyone feels welcome, and which supports and embraces differences. 

We can already see how these three concepts interact. Diversity brings in different opinions and experiences to the team. Inclusion allows diverse team members to feel welcome and supported. And that support comes in the form of equity, which seeks to advance the individual needs of team members and ensure equal opportunities for all.

But really all these concepts are interlocking. More inclusion and equity will bring more diversity, which will require more inclusion and equity. And therefore these concepts are mutually necessary in order to build a functioning and diverse team.

Reasons why equity is important on teams

Having diverse teams is important in order to get a mix of different opinions and perspectives. This allows new ideas to form, and makes it so that teams are more capable of meeting new challenges.

So all teams can benefit from being more aware about equity, since equity allows diversity to truly flourish. But aside from simply creating a more diverse environment, there are other reasons why equity is so vital to all teams.

1. Trust

Equity enables trust between team members by demonstrating support. When team members are treated as individuals and their needs are met, they feel valued. And the support will be mutual too. Team members will be more likely to give their all to the team, because they trust that their team has their backs. 

Trust is crucial to teams, and is necessary for creating those linkages that allow teams to succeed and thrive, and having an equitable team is a major part of this.

2. Team unity and retention

One of the biggest disruptors of team unity is an awareness of status differences. When team members feel these status differences as boundaries to their own growth, they don’t want to engage with the team as much,resentments can flourish and breakdowns can occur.

It’s natural to have roles on teams But these roles should be made as transparent as possible, with an emphasis on the pathways that are open to those roles. Team members shouldn’t feel barred from any roles simply based on their differences. Equity helps to smooth status differences and create a greater sense of team unity, where everyone belongs.  

Equity also naturally helps teams retain talent by ensuring they have the resources they need. Team members are more likely to buy into the team, and feel like they are welcomed when equity is present.

3. Reslience

Resilience means being able to adapt to new crises and to learn from them in order to become stronger. Equity helps teams learn how to adapt by getting them in the habit of dealing with diversity in a tangible way, and how to accommodate different perspectives and experiences. And if teams can figure out ways to support each other even when there is no crisis, then they will be more likely to do so when there is one. 

Equity on remote & hybrid teams

The issues surrounding equity are especially salient for remote and hybrid teams now. These types of teams are having to deal with major shifts in work and work culture, which are creating stress on many teams.It’s harder to see how team members are doing, and harder to assert a standard in terms of work style. 

Not to mention, remote and hybrid teams are facing shocks to team unity. We’ve mentioned here before that while remote work has led to increases in productivity, it has also led to a decrease in team unity. Team members may be able to get their work done on their own, but they don’t feel part of the larger group like they used to.  

We don’t have a perfect answer for this, since so much is still changing and we don’t have any conclusive long-run data yet. But equity provides a step in the right direction by focusing on diverse needs and supporting them. Hybrid and remote teams will need to communicate more with each other and look for new pathways of support.

This could involve changing the structure of their teams to allow for more flexibility in terms of scheduling and time off. It could mean more mental health support or seminars on how to deal with anxiety. Or it could come in the form of new supplies to make home offices more comfortable or productive. 

Equity and team building

One thing that can help teams to get thinking about equity is team building. What team building does is increase connections between team members. Using puzzle-based activities, our team building activities get team members to talk and share with each other while focusing them on a shared goal. As relationships grow stronger, teams’ sense of equity will grow stronger too. 

At Invite Japan, as we’ve been emphasizing for years, our activities break down the barriers between people, such as age, race, gender, nationality, and language. They create unique spaces where team members can be themselves, and learn about each other’s diverse talents and skills in a low-stakes environment. 

Our team building programs will also help open your teams’ minds to the possibilities that it has in front of it, both in terms of the vast potential of team members and the variety of ways that you can cultivate that potential. 

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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