A Fair Race: Understanding the Difference Between Equity and Equality, a Q&A with Hue’s Fahad Khawaja
Oftentimes in the workplace, we hear organizations using the buzzword “equality” and explaining how important the term is to them. Maybe you’ve heard phrases such as “we really strive for equality here,” or “equality is one of our founding principles.” And while equality is important, it’s equity that many companies need to focus on. Yes, there’s more than a two-letter difference between the two terms.
Equality means that everyone in the company is given the same resources and opportunities. Everyone gets the same support system, the same training and education, the same standing within departments. Equity, on the other hand, demonstrates that every employee has different circumstances, and understands that different resources might be needed for certain groups of people in order to reach an equal outcome. With equity, the playing field is leveled, and organizations are willing to be flexible and work with their employees to guarantee everyone has the opportunity for success. Equality without equity can actually lead to inequality, as treating everyone equally without supporting certain employees’ needs means the playing field isn’t level.
Hue, a New York-based nonprofit organization, works to amplify voices of color working in marketing, as employers have reported their struggles with finding leaders of color for years. We talked with Hue founder, Fahad Khawaja, about how the organization is striving for equity for all.
Why did you start your nonprofit organization, Hue?
Hue exists to build equity and prosperity, for the health and wealth of our communities. As a 501c3 nonprofit platform and community, its mission is to amplify the voices of people of color, to increase our visibility, and to pave a path for us all to rise. For years, employers have reported their struggles to find leaders of color. An estimated 80% of jobs are found through networking. We’re here, we’re experts in our craft, and we’re ready — but we don’t always have access to the legacy decision makers or their networks. When they do recruit us, we’re often left to fend for ourselves, without a path to development or growth. The result: we continue to be systemically held back from accessing opportunity and achieving our goals. It’s time to change that.
Why is equity as a goal and concept crucial in business?
Generational wealth is a luxury that BIPOC continue to strive for but do not have access to — with average wealth in the U.S. for white families at six times that of BIPOC families. That’s a massive gap. There have been countless studies done that prove the business case for diversity with the thinking that it will help address gaps, but these haven’t moved the needle when it comes to sustainable change. Equity is sustainable and addresses the imbalance that’s existed for too long.
When was Hue founded? And why do you think now is its time to shine?
Hue was founded in spring 2020. Less than 1% of the dollars committed by companies in 2020 toward racial equity has been spent or allocated to a specific initiative. That’s a stark disconnect. Now is the time because the steps we take today will create the change we want to see tomorrow. Across brands, companies, and industries, emphasis should be on continued progress rather than perfection. Uncertainty about what’s ahead shouldn’t keep us from moving forward. Particularly, with the employee and employer awakening we’ve experienced at a global level, the cost of not creating better environments and organizations is higher than the perceived risk of doing so.
Why do you think it’s important that we focus the conversation on equity, and not just on equality?
My focus has consistently been on equity, and those of us advocating progress have done so with equity in mind. It’s well past time to put actions behind equity-driving, systemic change within organizations. BIPOC are two to three times as likely to have suffered financial or economic hardship driven by discrimination at work due to our race/ethnicity. BIPOC also report switching industries due to a lack of career growth opportunities. And it’s happening at up to 3 times the rate of white colleagues.
What kind of success has Hue seen so far?
Hue has reached more than 15,000 people through advocacy efforts. From what we’ve seen, one in three members moved into new roles since joining the community, and three in four have accessed jobs they couldn’t elsewhere. Beyond that, three in five mentees in the mentorship program progressed into new roles or jobs after the program. More than 1,000 have signed up for events to connect with others with shared experiences and values — to ultimately grow their networks and careers, paving the path to equity.
If you could give other organizations some advice on becoming more equitable, what advice would you give?
Put actions behind your words. Reach out to community-focused people and organizations like Hue who can help create tangible change.
All data from this piece was obtained from Hue’s 2021 State of Inequity report published in partnership with the Harris Poll.