Understanding both concepts is the first step in embracing them, one leader from Linesight Singapore shares. Let's hear from him and leaders from Omron, Yayasan Hasanah, TransUnion, and more.
What does it truly mean when we say, 'let's embrace equity and equality at the workplace'?
To some, it means having in place policies and guidelines that are flexible across different employee needs; while for others, it means having in place programmes that encourage conversations around these concepts. And for many, it involves a mix of both.
While International Women's Day has passed, we at HRO are keeping the theme of #EmbraceEquity going with interviews with leaders in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, India, and more for a glimpse into how are leading and striking a balance between these concepts at their workplace.
This feature is part of a series of features our team is putting together on the theme, so do stay tuned to our website and daily e-bulletin for more coverage coming up!
Do also check out our other features here.
Emma Knowler, CHRO, EMEA & APAC, Experian
At Experian, we recognise both equity and equality. Both concepts are used interchangeably, but we need to understand the difference – and we’re driving them equally through our diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) initiatives. We have a DEI agenda that intends to increase awareness and understanding of equality and equity for all diversity groups. We introduced a DEI Sponsor to advocate for all diversity groups and have held campaigns for Pride, Mental Health Awareness, International Men’s Day, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and International Women’s Day.
Through an array of events, communications, and engagement mediums we have helped educate our people about the challenges various diversity groups may face and how we can better foster inclusive behaviours and environments to ensure all our people can feel they have equal opportunities that are tailored and relevant to them, and thus ensure they feel they belong and can thrive.
Aileen Tan, Chief Human Resources Officer, AIA
I believe it is absolutely important to constantly work on the delicate balance between equality and equity. We are a merit-based organisation and employees are evaluated based on their talent and hard work regardless of their backgrounds. This belief is built into all areas of the organisation – from hiring processes to learning and development strategies. We are proud that over 50% of our leaders are women, and we provide ample support for all employees to excel in their fields.
Taking a people-first approach allows us to consider policies and solutions that are flexible and consider the different needs of every employee. During COVID-19, all AIA Singapore employees were given a flexible sum so they could create a conducive environment to work from home. We also empower our managers and staff through mentorship and training, so that they are well-equipped to help each other in times of need.
Dato’ Shahira Ahmed Bazari, Managing Director, Yayasan Hasanah, Members of GLC Demi Rakyat dan Negara (GDRN)
Embracing equality and equity through prioritising flexibility, employee wellbeing, diversity, and inclusion is key to achieving the right balance in any workplace. It is also important for women to have family support in addition to a progressive gender policy at the workplace. As someone responsible for an impact-based foundation, I always emphasise the multidimensional nature of human existence – not just human 'capital' but human 'being.'
Furthermore, #EmbraceEquity for women starts at home and from an early, formative age so family grounding is important. For all women out there, believe in our inherent power to effect change; and be bold and courageous.
Marie Claire Lim Moore, Asia-Pacific Regional President and Hong Kong CEO, TransUnion
I see gender equity and equality as strategic imperatives for business, as increasingly more research shows a correlation between business performance and DE&I. Advancing women in business requires building a strong pipeline of talent. Young women talent should be given the opportunity to take up more prominent roles and responsibilities at the workplace, especially in traditionally male-dominated sectors like financial services. Influential female – and male – executives in Hong Kong need to take up the initiative to pave the way for those that do not have accessibility to the roles they deserve.
As a CEO, I’m committed to building a pipeline of female talent at TransUnion and continuing my work to advocate women's empowerment in the wider business community, whether it’s through DE&I policies, training, mentorship, or broader community work.
Anupam Trehan, Vice President, People & Communities for Asia Pacific, Japan, and Greater China, Cisco
Diversity, inclusion, and equity go hand-in-hand. At Cisco, this is beautifully encapsulated in our purpose of powering an inclusive future for all. Achieving this requires a multi-faceted approach that starts with educating employees on the difference and importance of equity and equality, and implementing key initiatives that embody them.
Cisco has several initiatives that balance this, such as The Multiplier Effect (TME), a programme where leaders sponsor a person different from themselves, and the Proximity Initiative, an intentional, inclusive action that leaders and participants take to understand, self-reflect on experiences of others and create a Conscious Culture. Other initiatives include Cisco’s pay fairness programme, and a skills-based hiring approach by introducing frameworks to hire and promote people based on their abilities and ensuring diversity within our interview panels. Our focus on inclusion and diversity is not just internal to Cisco but extends to our communities as well. This includes supplier and partner diversity, and Girls in ICT, an initiative by Cisco Networking Academy to bridge the gender gap, and much more.
Building an inclusive workplace is not only the responsibility of leaders. Cisco’s Conscious Culture ensures that everyone is aware of their role in fostering a culture of trust, compassion, and empathy, and empowering each other to thrive.
Shikin Raja Zainal, Director of Operations, Environment – Malaysia, Aurecon
As leaders, it is important to recognise that while embracing equality can move one’s corporate culture in the right direction, embracing equity can better address the unique circumstances of every employee and position them better for success at work.
Aurecon recognises that different individuals require different levels of support. When some who are young parents requested to work from home until infant/childcare facilities reopened in Malaysia, I am thankful that Aurecon afforded them the flexibility and the digital tools to do so. As we step out from COVID-19, Aurecon’s Ways of Working policy continues to enable our people to adopt flexible work arrangements.
Having a conducive environment at Aurecon enabled me to provide support for my team and still ensure they thrive to effectively deliver for our clients. To embrace equality and equity, we need to embrace our people and understand their needs, challenges, and strengths.
Mansi Madan Tripathy, Vice President, Shell Lubricants Asia Pacific
Embracing equity and equality at the workplace is crucial to building an inclusive team. The balance lies in the adoption of a dual strategy:
UNBLOCKING: With the company removing barriers that minority groups or employees may be facing, be it the need for flexibility of work, training, or mentoring. The company ensures that barriers that prevent any workplace inequality are addressed.
UNLOCKING the inner potential of employees themselves holds the secret to success. Individuals should ensure they are playing their part in [driving] equality by thinking and dreaming big, equipping themselves with capability so they grow to their full potential in the company.
At Shell Lubricants APAC, I believe that it is our responsibility to ensure a balance of equity and equality at the workplace so that our people have equal opportunities to have a seat at the table. We embrace this harmony through a robust stream of employee engagement activities and initiatives.
Michael Murphy, Director, Linesight Singapore
As a leader, I think it is important to acknowledge that understanding the concepts of both ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ is the first step in embracing them – and it is ok to ask for help to understand and remind ourselves of these concepts. Personally, I always challenge myself to think if I am demonstrating equality by giving everyone the same resources or opportunities, and equity in recognising that each person has different circumstances and may need different resources or opportunities to reach an equal outcome.
Linesight takes pride in creating safe spaces for all of our team. We endeavour to embed equity into all our people practices from recruitment and onboarding to development and succession planning. Our most recent initiative example is our Inclusive Leaders Training for our Managers which, along with many other such initiatives, is a significant component of Linesight’s policies and practices and has also been key in attracting talent, improving retention, and solidifying our culture.
I believe the modern workplace must embrace both equity and equality, and a strong employee programme should go beyond equal opportunities, rights, and resources to ensure that employees are on a level playing field to be able to achieve equal outcomes.
Chiranan Sanruang, Head - OMRON Management Centre for Asia Pacific (Thailand Branch), Omron
Equality and equity are two sides of the same coin. Equality means everyone is treated in a similar way, regardless of individual differences. Equity, on the other hand, means everyone is provided with what they need to succeed. A workplace can’t truly be a fair, inclusive environment unless both are present. Making workplaces equal and equitable requires time, resources, and strategy. It is a long process that’s constantly evolving, but it’s worth it. Employees are happier, more productive, and more loyal when both equity and equality are present in the right proportion. Everyone benefits from this environment.
At my workplace, basically, it is practised and believed that everyone will benefit from the same support system. All of them are treated equally. Side by side we do work on removing barriers to inequity to ensure equal access to the given resources and privileges. This also helps a lot in strengthening the sense of belonging at the workplace.
For example, allowing a person to work from home a few days a week because of medical conditions, initiating skills-based hiring, stopping discrimination in the hiring process, continuously trying to inculcate a psychologically safe and open environment where all the employee can share their issues with management without a fear, and ensuring fair treatment to all kinds of employees – someone approaching retirement should feel as valued as someone who is a latest new recruit.
Liza Morales, Creative Director, Ecotecture Design Studio
As a leader, it is important to embrace both equity and equality at the workplace. I believe that providing equal opportunities alone is not enough, and we must recognise and address the unique needs and challenges of individuals from diverse backgrounds.
In my workplace, we prioritise creating an inclusive culture that values diversity and promotes equity. We have implemented various strategies to achieve this, such as reviewing policies and procedures to ensure they are inclusive and equitable, prioritising diversity and inclusion in our recruitment and hiring practices, and providing targeted training and development opportunities for employees from underrepresented groups.
I believe that a diverse workforce brings different perspectives and experiences, which leads to better decision-making and innovation. I strive to create an environment where everyone can thrive, regardless of their background or identity.
Overall, finding the balance between equity and equality requires ongoing efforts and a commitment to promoting an inclusive workplace culture. As a leader, I am dedicated to creating a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected, and has an equal opportunity to succeed.
Clare Lin, Senior Director, HRBP APAC, Yahoo
Women have long dealt with an invisible culture of exclusion. Equity is the next step; recognising equality alone is not enough: it is no longer sufficient to treat everybody the same, and organisations need to provide tailored support to help everyone be successful.
At Yahoo, DEI is embedded in everything we do, from hiring to development and employee engagement. Our Employee Resource Groups (ERG), such as the Women’s Inclusion Network ERG, support and empower employees of diverse backgrounds, helping them push boundaries within an inclusive culture. Our career development framework includes discussing the career visions and personal growth goals of each employee, beyond the template path to success - this includes how they can be their best selves at work and in their personal lives.
Specifically, for female employees, we tailor the support they require in their different life stages, with the flexibility of a hybrid working model.
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