Equity V Equality

Susan Anthony
Susan Anthony
Susan Brownell Anthony (February 20, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was an American social reformer and feminist who played a pivotal role in the women's suffrage movement. | Susan Anthony, Suffrage Movement, Social Equality, Civil Rights, Feminist,

Producing fairness in a free society

People don't dislike fairness, or even the idea of fairness. People dislike the legislating of fairness; telling everyone what to do, and exactly how to do it. Yes, I understand that we needed legislation once upon a time. Now, though, we need to stop whining and think first! We're catering to the lowest common denominator, relaxing or eliminating standards in an effort to create diversity and fairness, often to the detriment of the individual and society.

So, let's talk about fairness for a hot minute. The "everybody gets a trophy" mentality has, and will continue to, cost us in this country. Time, money, talent, you name it! And that's just at the corporate level. It's also costing individuals self-esteem and the opportunity to face adversity and become stronger, better people because of it. Adversity forces you to think outside the box, consider another way, to get creative. Yes, I said that. Adversity makes you stronger, tougher, and softer on the inside, if you let it. None of that is bad. In fact, while I don't wish gratuitous hardships on people, I wouldn't want to be shielded from them either.

People are different. They need different things to succeed. Additionally, not everybody wants the same thing. People learn differently, too, but that's another subject, another article, entirely. So what if instead of fairness, we promote hard work, like we once did? Or helping people be their best selves, and asking them what they require to make that happen? How about rewarding effort?

I would argue that you can't "produce" fairness. It is a condition, not a product of laws. Further, everybody views fairness differently. It is subjective, humanity being what it is. The idea of equity is everybody gets what they need to be successful. This, assuming everybody came up the same way, caters to the lowest common denominator. It also fails to speak to follow through. A tool can't use itself.

Let's use working out as an example. To be successful, you need a workout, proper equipment and form, and follow through. Let's say my trainer gives me a workout and I go to the gym with my friend. We have the equipment and we know proper form. If I put in the work but my friend doesn't, I will see results but my friend will not. That's less a question of fairness and equity, and more a question of effort, is it not? Equity in the gym means we have access to the same tools and a workout that works for us. But effort is still required and that's where results happen, right? That's where the desired outcome, fairness, is altered.

The idea behind equality, treating everyone the same, is great in theory, as so many things are; except you don't control the main ingredient: humanity. It's bigger than being nice and treating everyone with respect. If everybody knew how to zipper, I mean, merge, it would make rush hour so much easier. Geez. It's not a hard concept. Oh, but it is! Because first we have to decide on tomayto or tomahto, then we have to agree on execution.

I would argue that in striving for fairness, we've lost the art of efforting. Nowadays we dog on people who work hard and succeed. We use to praise success and stamina, and marvel at legends in the business, sports, and arts worlds, among other. We wanted to learn secrets of success of the likes of Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett. We wanted to be just like the Olympic athlete of the time or Michael Jordan or Lebron James. We wanted their ethos, their "air", whatever they were doing, eating, listening to, we wanted it. How did Jordan get "air"? How many hours did he labor in the gym, how many times did he make that jump during practice or at home with no audience of any kind? How much time does your favorite athlete log at the gym, the pool or their arena of choice in order to compete for 4 quarters, 9 innings, 300 laps, 3 periods, or whatever their window of performance may be? Practicing in order to strive for and achieve excellence seems to have gone by the way side, replaced by demands for fairness. When "fairness" doesn't materialize, those demanding it whine like toddlers in need of a nap, instead of looking in the mirror!

Let's try this again. Life isn't fair. But the lack of fairness should drive you, not cause you to beg for equality or equity. The truth is you need neither. A downfall of our "everybody gets a trophy" society is we don't strive for excellence anymore. If you do, you're looked down upon. We don't encourage children, who are growing into adults, to believe in and think for themselves! We don't encourage striving. We don't encourage anyone to effort, to be their best. Children and adults alike are being taught, and encouraged, to whine, cry and protest, to be professional victims. As someone who is a survivor of a violent crime, you really, really don't want to be in that place. There is nothing sexy, fun or glamorous about being a victim, no matter what anyone tells you. But, I digress.

When I worked in retail as a manager, I promoted a 16-year-old Hispanic girl to key holder. On learning that her best friend and co-worker was promoted, her best friend, a Middle Eastern girl was very upset. She called it unfair and threatened to quit. There was equity as both girls had the same training, the same opportunities to work, the same tools, and, in fact, nearly the same responsibilities. There was equality as well. The difference had nothing to do with a lack of either but rather effort. The newly promoted girl had asked for more responsibilities, liked staying busy and learning new tasks. She wanted to know how things worked. It came down to effort and a desire to succeed. She earned her promotion.

When I worked in an office environment, I was hard working, curious, adaptable, early to work, and always did whatever work was in front of me, the fact that it was above or beneath my pay grade notwithstanding. If it needed to be done, I did it. If I didn't know what was going on, I asked, I learned. I wasn't afraid to speak my mind or be curious aloud, even though I was a woman in a construction environment. Equity and equality were both present and to be honest, I wish there had been less equality because people who hated their jobs, and a few who weren't good at their jobs, would have been gone a lot sooner, the working environment much calmer.

Another glaring example of striving for equality and fairness that could cost lives is standards one must meet in the military and as first responders. In an effort to create diversity (read: fairness) and draw more recruits, some fire and police departments have lowered their qualification standards. Never mind that nothing about the job environment, equipment or the responsibilities of the job have changed. Police and firefighters are still responsible for themselves, their gear, the community they serve and protect, and, the man or woman to their left and right. But because not everybody can pass the exams or meet the physical demands, standards have been lowered, physical requirements waived. And yes, similar efforts have happened in the military, too. Excuse my French but fuck political correctness and fairness. I want my friends and family to come home safely from duty or war. There is enough risk in being in the military or being a first responder without adding to it the possibility that someone literally may be unable to carry their weight, and, in the event of an emergency (do you see the irony?!), someone else's, too? I get it. You want life to be fair, you're striving for diversity. Good for you! I want causalities to be at an absolute minimum! Period. Not everybody is meant to serve in the military or be a first responder. Don't lower the standards to get more people. Being selective is mission critical. There are literally lives on the line.

And we're back to equality or equity as a means to the end that is fairness. Since I know that life is not fair, and I'm totally OK with that because fairness is subjective, I vote for believing in humanity on a very basic level. Give children, adults, people, the tools they need to succeed. Talk to people. Ask them what they need, what's their goal? And then actually listen to their answer! THEN give them the tools they need.

Something I've learned these last few years is that when we raise people to believe fairness is the be all, end all, we fail them, ourselves and society because life isn't fair. That doesn't mean you run to the have/have nots argument because that honestly in so many cases is "did/did not". Did you make an effort, put in the sweat equity?

I would argue that this is a much bigger conversation than equity v equality. I would further argue it's time for a change of perspective. We have to get back to valuing hard work, self-respect that comes from earning a paycheck and working your way up, and efforting, no excuses.

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Updated Jan 2, 2019 12:27 PM EST | More details


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