The path to creating a sustainable society that works for ALL people begins inside each of our own minds as we seek to understand our biases.
Step Up: Equity Matters is a movement for change. We believe the focus on equity will attract and retain diversity at all levels of the organizations from entry-level roles to the boardrooms. Equitable organizations don’t just welcome and appreciate diversity; they truly value it. As a result, our purpose is to improve organizational and individual capabilities to practice equity.
The first step in solving any problem is to recognize that there is a problem. Biases are not inherently bad, but when left unchecked, they can cause inequities in our workplaces and communities. For example, I may have a bias in favor of people with postsecondary degrees. This is a positive bias, but without further examination, the bias may cause me to exclude perfectly qualified candidates from a job opening. In recognizing the inequitable outcomes this bias creates, I can begin to adjust my processes (my own thought processes as well as my organizational processes) to create a different outcome.
Other examples of inequitable outcomes include pay disparities, feelings of not belonging, direct or indirect exclusion, and lack of access to promotion or development. The lines of inequity are drawn by race, gender, age, education, marital status, income, LGBTQ+ status, and other factors of identity. Humans tend to categorize others as in-group or out-group and treat those in our in-group more favorably.
Acknowledging our personal and organizational biases can be hard. As humans, we naturally want to see ourselves in a positive light. Acknowledging our biases does not make us bad people. In fact, acknowledging and owning our biases can only make us better. Owning our biases will begin our individual and collective healing.
The key is to own our biases with compassion – for self and for community. It is easy for us to judge our own and others’ behaviors. We must recognize that we had little control over the biases we inherited and simultaneously compassionately hold ourselves accountable for the biases we will leave as our legacy. It is important to balance our needs with those of communities that have been historically disadvantaged.
Disrupting biases, like any progress toward equity, is a lifelong commitment. While our biases are deeply rooted and may never be fully “gone,” our self-awareness and ownership empowers us to decide how we act on our biases. It is important to recognize that doing nothing is in itself a choice. It also empowers us to redesign our systems to safeguard against biases that create inequitable outcomes. It is less about changing what is working and more about not accepting what is not working. In the earlier example of excluding qualified candidates without a degree, I can change my job requirements to more clearly define the actual needs of the job, rather than a blanket statement requiring a degree.
The Step Up Approach emphasizes the importance of closing the gap between believing in and practicing equity. We support and value each individual’s journey. We bring the business community together to share resources, practices, great ideas, and lessons learned. Through consistent commitment and engagement we can transform our workplace and communities.