I have always loved this illustration showing the difference between Equity and Equality. It is simple and easy to understand. But I think it misses another element of the story, which is understanding the desires and passions of the individuals on the boxes. On the surface, it shows three individuals who want to see the baseball game.
Consider another dimension.
I grew up in a large family – 7 kids with many differences between us. My mom practiced equality. She spent exactly the same amount (and I mean to the penny) on each child for clothes, school supplies, and birthday presents.
Dad was about equity. Not all 7 children were the same. Some had natural talent and love for a particular sport, and dad funded that passion. What he realized over time was that he needed to be able to recognize different passions.
It’s hard to see a talent before it has been tested, but I had a passion for writing and wanted to be the high school newspaper editor. I found a wonderful week-long training program in Dearborn, Michigan, a mere 7-hour car ride to attend. When asking my dad to support and fund this, he was hesitant, not understanding my desire. He had never heard me talk of this before, so understandably, he wanted to know more before proceeding. It took some convincing, but once he was in, he was all in. It opened his eyes, and thereafter, his support was instrumental for me.
There is something missing from the photo because it assumes everyone wants to see the game. Maybe one of those kids is only there because the others are. Instead of watching the game, maybe he would rather take art lessons.
As leaders, we have to spend time understanding what fuels people. We also need to ensure that the expectations we set don’t just focus on strengths. We may be fueling a career path that the individual doesn’t actually want to be on.
What if the individual yearns for something else? What if we replaced the baseball game with a photo of a university campus? My family had a “college fund,” started by my grandmother. It was expected that we would go to college. When the time came, one of my sisters did not want to follow that path. Dad’s mindset had been evolving over time, and instead of holding fast to the “rule,” he encouraged her to follow her passion. He even used her college fund to help her do so.
As the theme for International Women’s Day, there is a clear difference between Equity and Equality. I would advocate that, to make it work well, we need to really understand what each individual’s passions and desires are so we can best help them on their individual path.
About the Author
Global Executive, Speaker, Author, and Founder of Signature Leaders
Carol Seymour is a sought-after business leader and seasoned global executive of large and mid-cap size companies and private-equity backed turnarounds. She founded Signature Leaders in 2013 which focuses on accelerating women into next level leadership and helping leaders create greater impact and influence. Signature Leaders was recognized last year as one of Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Private Companies”.
The Signature series of leadership offerings support the growth of women from Manager level up to and including C-suite executives. Today, more than 3000 global leaders across 6 continents have experienced a Signature program. Signature Leaders partners with more than 140 market-leading companies for their selective investments.
Carol is also a Founding Member of Paradigm for Parity and named one of the Top 40 Women Keynote Speakers for 2020 by RealLeaders Magazine.
Carol resides in Cashiers, NC. She has two married children, three granddaughters, and a grandson.